Each year on December 3, the U.S. celebrates a very special day — National Roof Over Your Head Day. Following closely after Thanksgiving (another day to be thankful), National Roof Over Your Head Day asks us to give thanks for what we have, beginning with the roof over our heads, particularly because many other people lack this basic necessity. This day is a lovely reminder to be content with our lot and avoid worrying about things we do not yet have.
History of National Roof Over Your Head Day
Whereas we are still tracing the origins of this day, the origin of homelessness in America, on the other hand, is well-documented.
In colonial America, people without a roof over their heads were labeled vagrants (around the 1600s) and ‘sturdy beggars’ (in the mid-18th century). Most colonial towns — like Baltimore and Philadelphia — had a significant number of such people. This situation was likely caused by King Philip’s War (also called the First Indian War) against the colonial people in 1676, which drove many people out of their homes, forcing them to seek shelter elsewhere. Major cities were not as populated; only about 7% of Americans lived in these places.
The industrial revolution changed this, bringing a steady stream of workers to urban centers. By the 1850s, major cities had reported a larger number of vagrants than ever before, and the only shelter system for them was the lodging rooms located inside police stations.
Over the years, the people seeking shelter grew to include different races, nationalities, and age groups, too. The solutions for such a situation have also changed over the years: In the early 20th century, people believed jobs were the answer; Now, creating affordable housing is considered the remedy.
Even today, there are as many as 100 million people without a roof over their heads all around the U.S., and this is likely the reason this Day was created. Many states have come up with creative solutions to alleviate this problem and continue to devise and roll out strategies to enable shelter for every person in America.
National Roof Over Your Head Day timeline
The U.S. first uses the word 'homelessness', which describes 'tramps' moving around the country in search of work; the emphasis is on character and changing scenes of home life, rather than the lack of a permanent home.
In response to a greater degree of homelessness, the Emergency Relief and Construction Act is passed; it allows the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to lend public funds to corporations to build housing for low-income families.
With a severe housing crisis, Congress passes the Housing Act to give every American family a "decent home and a suitable living environment."
The Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act defines homelessness and makes provisions to use federal money to support homeless shelters.
The CARES Act (2020) and the American Rescue Plan Act (2021) appropriate billions of dollars toward programs that look after rental assistance, affordable housing development, and other services.
National Roof Over Your Head Day FAQs
What state has the most homeless people?
With about 151, 278 homeless people, California, according to a 2021 report, has the largest homeless population in America.
What does it mean to have a roof over one's head?
Having a roof over one’s head, per Merriam-Webster Online, is having “a place to live.”
What national day is it on December 3?
Two events fall on December 3 each year — National Roof Over Your Head Day and International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Additionally, in 2021, two other events — Faux Fur Friday and National Bartender Day also fall on the same day; they are celebrated on the first Friday in December, which in this case is December 3.
How to Observe National Roof Over Your Head Day
Celebrate the roof over your head
Your home, your sanctuary needs some love, too. Spend time beautifying it, cleaning it, throwing a house party, and simply being happy under this particular roof.
Build a roof over someone else's head
Know of a place that helps people find shelter? Check if your services and talents are of use to them. Volunteer, donate, or engage in other activities to contribute to helping people get a roof over their heads.
Participate in a 'giving tree' event
These are usually found in offices, churches, schools, hospitals, and other organizations over the holidays; they list items for individuals or families in need. Choose a tag and start giving. Can't locate a giving tree? Visit the nearest homeless shelter to offer your services, or simply give to the next homeless person you see.
5 Facts About Homelessness
People without a roof in the U.S.
As of January 2020, around 580,466 people were homeless in the U.S.
50% of income goes into housing
6.3 million American households spent more than half their income on housing, according to a 2019 survey.
Ending veterans' homelessness
82 communities and three states announced that they have ended veterans' homelessness — a condition where homelessness for this group of people is rare, very brief, and is a one-time thing.
Homelessness for families with children
This is another group that has seen an overall decrease since 2007, by 27%.
Increase in permanent housing beds
58% of all homeless system beds have been designated for permanent housing; 46 states and the District of Columbia have contributed to this trend.
Why National Roof Over Your Head Day is Important
Your home is your sanctuary
Nothing provides you with as much comfort as your home does, and this day is perfect for remembering and being grateful for everything you have.
We tend to take things for granted
Instead of wishing for things we don't have, we learn to focus on what we have been fortunate enough to get in this life.
We are encouraged to help
The more we realize how fortunate we are, the more we wish to help those with less.
National Roof Over Your Head Day dates