America's homeless crisis is also a crisis of color.
Black families were seven times more likely than white families to stay in homeless shelters in 2010, according to a recent report from the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness, a non-profit research organization.
As CNN points out, black families accounted for just 12.3 percent of the U.S. population that year, but represented 38.8 percent of the population in homeless shelters. Meanwhile, white families made up 63.7 percent of the country, but only filled 28.6 percent of the shelters.
At the national level, the problem of homelessness is likely to get worse for all. That's because more people are living doubled-up with friends and family than a few years ago, a condition that often precedes a period of homelessness, according to a recent report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Additionally, the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program, a federal initiative created in 2009 to help keep people off the streets, has only a few months left to run.
But the ICPH's findings highlight an uncomfortable truth: In the recession and disappointing post-recession period of the past several years, nearly all groups have suffered, just not equally.
Even before the economy stumbled, white households in America had a considerably higher average wealth level than black and Hispanic households. But once the downturn hit, that wealth gap exploded.
Median wealth for white households fell just 16 percent between 2005 and 2009. For blacks, the drop-off was 53 percent. For Hispanics, it was 66 percent.
The foreclosure crisis also hit minorities particularly hard. Lenders have been accused of steering blacks and Hispanics into expensive subprime loans during the housing boom. As a result, many neighborhoods of color have been especially ravaged by default and vacancy in the housing crash's aftermath.
Today, the unemployment rate for blacks is 15.8 percent, more than twice that of whites. Over a quarter of black people in America live in poverty, a rate three times higher than that experienced by whites. And the life expectancy gap between blacks and whites has grown larger -- a change that some analysts have attributed to the punishing economy.