Report finds connection between fast food work and homelessness

A report found that 1 in 17 homeless people in California work in fast food. Others working in fast food are struggling with rent.
A homeless person sleeps on a sidewalk in Los Angeles.
Posted at 12:35 PM, May 05, 2023

A report this week released by the Economic Roundtableexamined the connection between working in fast food and homelessness in California. 

The report found that 1 in 17 homeless people in California works in fast food. It also found that 1 in 3 fast food workers in non-administrative roles receives taxpayer-funded health care through Medicaid.

The report noted that homelessness in California increased 51% from 2014 through 2022. The group said that if fast food workers were paid enough to afford housing, that rate would have been 42%. 

Additionally, there is a significant burden on these workers who aren’t homeless. The report indicated that 25% of front-line fast food workers spend at least half of their earnings on rent, and 43% live in overcrowded living conditions.

“The fast food industry is a poverty employer, with a larger share of its workers in poverty than any other industry,” the Economic Roundtable wrote. “All low-wage workers face some level of risk that they will become homeless. This risk is compounded in the fast food industry by the combination of low wages, part-time work, and employee churn. These interlocking hazards undercut workers’ ability to pay their rent.”

A park ranger and a mental health clinician respond to a call on an urban trail in Denver.

Mental health experts and park rangers team up to battle homelessness

Mental health experts are teaming up with park rangers to help those experience homelessness in a first-of-its-kind program in Colorado.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for fast food and counter workers in 2022 was $13.43 an hour, which is about $20 below what the median hourly wage is for the general population. 

California had the second-highest median hourly wage for fast food workers out of the 50 states, behind Washington. The median wage in California in 2022 was $16.60 an hour.

An annual estimate released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development said 582,462 people were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2022 in the U.S.