Why Do Homeless People Live in Cities?

An urban city landscape

Have you ever noticed how homeless people become more noticeable as you venture deeper into large cities? Go out in the countryside and you hardly ever see any people who are actually homeless. Cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City are known for having at least one homeless person on just about every corner. So it definitely seems like the larger a city is, the more homeless people there are. Sure, someone could argue the point that there’s always going to be more homeless people where there’s a larger population, but we’re also talking about density here. There’s a larger percentage or per capita amount of people living on the streets than in smaller towns. The reasons for this can vary because cities attract people for different reasons, but some reasons are more common than others. So here’s the three main reasons as to why homeless people choose to live in big cities.


Mass Transit

The most obvious benefit to living in the city is that big cities usually have large public transportation systems and mass transit. This can include buses, trains, subways, or even ferries. To homeless people, these things are vital and necessary in order to get from place to place and even to eventually get out of homelessness itself. Since not everybody can afford bus tickets, some cities or private programs have ways that homeless people can get discounted or free tickets. Some career centers, for example, will offer free monthly bus passes to homeless people who register with them and show up twice a week to attend job workshop classes and to register for employment. When I was homeless I rarely used buses, since everything was within a one hour walk from me and the buses cost money. But when I needed the bus, I was glad I had them there, running every 15 minutes, so that I could get to important appointments or even my storage unit when I needed to.


Programs and Shelters

With a larger population comes more shelters and more programs to help the needy. When you’re homeless, you need as much help as you can get to get back on your feet. There’s federal and state programs that can help people out, but these are easier to access in cities. In addition to that, there’s many private-run programs and shelters that aren’t usually as common as you get out into rural and less populated areas. From large churches with programs to help the disadvantaged, to soup kitchens, to discounted medical programs. These types of advantages and services are more easily come across when you’re living in a big city. Since there’s so many places and since city’s are very walkable, in some cases it can make life very easy for those who are down on their luck. A person who needs food can simply go to a church and receive breakfast, then go to a different shelter an hour later and eat breakfast again. The same goes for lunches and dinners and bagged or canned food. Some people argue that it’s too easy for people to take advantage with a system like this in place, and that the homeless people have no incentive to get back on their feet. This may all be very true, but regardless, it’s one main reason so many homeless people choose to live in large cities.


Nearby Amenities

Imagine you’re on the street and you have no house to live in, no private bathroom, no sink, and no air conditioning. These types of things that your average person takes for granted are not needed if you’re used to living on the streets and in a metropolis or urban area. For example, let’s say you’re living in San Francisco and suddenly have to use a bathroom to wash your face. There’s plenty of fast food restaurants and other places for you to walk into and clean up. Let’s say it’s a really hot day and you’re worried about becoming dehydrated. You can always just walk into a shopping mall and spend your time there in the air conditioning. When it’s raining, you have more than 10 different libraries you can visit to stay indoors. Now if you were out in a rural area, you’d have less shelter, less opportunities to use public bathrooms or to take advantage of mainstream air conditioning. All these things can be found in cities and in multiple places that are often near each other.