How Many People Are Homeless In America? (37 Homelessness Statistics)

How Many People Are Homeless In America - How Many Homeless In America - Homelessness Statistics - Number Of Homeless In US

How many people are homeless in America?

In this article, you’ll learn about: 

  • how many people are homeless in America
  • how our government defines homelessness
  • homeless statistics
  • how to interpret the homelessness statistics data
  • homeless population by state
  • what causes homelessness in America

Let’s dig in.

Table of Contents

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Homelessness Statistics

  • Last year, ~582,462 people were homeless in America.
  • 18.2% of those experiencing homelessness are unsheltered on any given night.
  • California, New York, and Florida have 48% of the overall homeless population.
  • 9.3% of people experiencing homelessness are veterans.
  • ~43,000 veterans experienced homelessness on any given night.
  • 17.2% of the people experiencing homelessness are under 25 last year.
  • 4.2% of people experiencing homelessness are unaccompanied minors.
  • 14.1% of people experiencing homelessness are chronically homeless.
  • 5.2% of people experiencing homelessness self-identifies as LGBT.
  • 37% of people experiencing homelessness are employed.
  • 11.1% of people experiencing homelessness have a serious mental illness.
  • 17.3% of people experiencing homelessness are victims of domestic violence.

The Definition of Homelessness

Homelessness refers to the state of not having a stable, permanent place to live.

Legal Definition

The HUD defines this as people who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. 

This includes people living in a shelter, in transitional housing.

Or in places not meant for human habitation like streets or cars.

Practical Definitions Of Homelessness In America

The three types of homelessness in America are: 

  • Chronic homelessness
  • Temporary homelessness
  • Hidden homelessness

Chronic homelessness refers to individuals who:

  • have been homeless for at least a year 
  • have had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years 

These individuals often have a disabling condition

  • 13% of the homeless population are chronically homeless individuals.
  • 10% are experiencing long-term homelessness.

Temporary homelessness refers to a situation where a person is without stable housing for a short period.

This is often due to a crisis like job loss or domestic violence.

Definition Of "Hidden Homelessness"

Hidden homelessness refers to situations where people:

  • do not have stable housing 
  • are not visible in public spaces 

This includes people who are:

  • couch surfing
  • staying with friends or family temporarily
  • living in other types of temporary accommodations

Last year, the most significant increase in the homeless population was among:

  • individuals in transitional housing (5%)
  • persons living in encampments (3.2%)
  • individuals living in unsheltered locations (2.7%)

Statistical Overview Of Homelessness In America

Last year, there were about 582,462 homeless people in the United States

This was the highest number recorded since data collection began. 

Of these individuals, 72% were adults and 28% were part of families with children.

The age breakdown shows that 6.9% of homeless individuals were between the ages of 18 and 24. 

Gender is a significant factor in homelessness. 

Men made up 68% of the homeless population. 

Women, transgender individuals, and those identifying as nonbinary or questioning also had notable representation.

In terms of ethnicity, 50% of the homeless population identified as White.

But it’s important to note that most groups of color experienced higher rates of homelessness. 

For instance, 48 out of every 10,000 Black people were homeless, compared to 11 out of every 10,000 White people.

The population of chronically homeless individuals made up 22% of the total.

These are defined as people with disabilities who have experienced long-term or repeated incidents of homelessness,  

Veterans accounted for 6%, and unaccompanied youth under 25 made up 5%.

LGBTQ community members experienced particularly high rates of homelessness.

On any given night, about 348,630 people had shelter.

But 40% of the homeless population lived in places not suitable for human habitation, such as:

  • city sidewalks
  • vehicles
  • abandoned buildings 

The majority (51%) of homeless individuals were unsheltered.

And the rate was even higher (62%) among those who were chronically homeless. 

Families with children were the least likely to be unsheltered, with 11% living in such conditions.

State By State Homelessness Analysis

Here is a brief overview of the states with the highest and lowest rates of homelessness:

  • The top five states with the highest rates of homelessness are California, Vermont, Oregon, Washington D.C., and Hawaii. Mississippi has the lowest rate.
  • California has the most people experiencing homelessness, totaling 171,521.
  • In Vermont, 98% of homeless people were sheltered, while in California, 67% of homeless people were unsheltered.
StateTotal HomelessHomeless per 100kHomeless HouseholdsVeteransYoung Adults
New Hampshire1,67511920611384
New Jersey9,662104993551496
New Mexico3,333158246257216
New York91,27146815,0911,2702,978
North Carolina9,28086767907417
North Dakota54169514972
Rhode Island1,1041011119226
South Carolina4,28780275462216
South Dakota1,058115766666
West Virginia1,341767913789
United States569,33413951,59936,65834,696

Which State Has The Most Homeless?

California has the most homeless people at 161,548.

But New York has the most homeless people per 100,000 residents. 

New York has 468 homeless people per 100,000 residents. 

California has 415 in comparison.

What State Has The Lowest Homeless Rate?

North Dakota has the least amount of homeless people at 541. 

Mississippi has the lowest homeless rate at 38 homeless people per 100,000 residents.

Homelessness In California

The California homeless population reached 161,548 people last year. 

More than two-thirds of these individuals are unsheltered, meaning they sleep:

  • on the streets
  • in encampments
  • in their cars 

This is the highest percentage of unsheltered homeless people in any state in the U.S. 

Half of the unsheltered homeless people in the U.S. live in California, about 115,500 people.

Looking at the demographics, 36% of homeless people in California are considered “chronically homeless.” 

This means they have a disability that significantly impedes their ability to live independently.

And they have been without housing for a consecutive year or on at least four occasions within a three-year period. 

The other 64% are categorized as “experiencing short-term homelessness.” 

Of the total homeless population, 80% are adults who do not have children.

And an estimated 40% of those are aged 50 and older. 

Families with children make up 14% of the homeless population.

And 7% are unaccompanied youth, defined as being under age 25.

A significant contributing factor to homelessness in California is the cost of housing. 

There are high levels of poverty and drug addiction in other areas of the U.S. with lower housing costs.

But the homelessness rates are five times higher in West Coast cities like:

  • San Francisco
  • Los Angeles
  • San Diego 

California has the second-lowest number of housing units per capita in the U.S.

And there is an estimated shortage of one million homes affordable to the lowest income renters. 

Studies suggest that even moderate decreases in rents could lead to significant declines in homelessness.

Read More: How Many Murders Go Unsolved

Homelessness In New York

New York has the second-highest homeless population in the United States, with 91,271 homeless people. 

The majority are in New York City, where the number of homeless people reached its highest point since the Great Depression. 

However, the last two years have seen a decrease in homelessness, thanks to the creation of safe havens. 

These are specialized shelters with a streamlined process for getting people into permanent housing. 

As of November 2022, there were 67,150 homeless people in New York City.

The total number of homeless people sleeping in the city’s main municipal shelter system was 75,540. 

This includes:

  • 16,692 homeless families
  • 23,697 homeless children
  • 27,465 homeless adults in families

The number of homeless single adults was 24,378, with 19,399 men and 4,979 women​.

Read More: How Many Missing Children Are Never Found?

Factors Contributing To Homelessness In America

Let’s dig deeper into what contributes to the US homeless population

Economic Factors

Economic factors contribute to how many people are homeless in America in several ways.

  • Unemployment: People who lose their jobs might not have enough savings to cover housing costs. Without a steady income, they can’t afford rent or mortgage payments.
  • Poverty: People living in poverty often struggle to meet basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter. If most of their income goes to food and other necessities, they might not have enough left for housing.
  • High Cost of Living: In areas where living costs are high, even people with jobs might struggle to afford housing. If wages don’t keep up with rising rents, people can become homeless.
  • Lack of Affordable Housing: There’s a shortage of affordable housing in many parts of America. When people can’t find housing within their budget, they risk becoming homeless.
  • Income Inequality: Wide gaps between the rich and the poor can lead to homelessness. When wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, many others are left struggling to afford basic necessities, including housing.

Social Factors

Social factors also contribute significantly to the number of homeless people in the US.

  • Domestic Violence: People often become homeless when they leave their homes to escape abusive environments. Without safe and stable alternatives, they may end up without shelter.
  • Discrimination: This can manifest in various forms like racial, gender, or orientation-based biases. Discrimination can hinder individuals from finding stable housing or employment, increasing their risk of homelessness.
  • Lack of Support Systems: People without family or community support can face increased difficulties during hard times. When there’s no safety net to fall back on, homelessness becomes a greater risk.
  • Mental Health Issues and Substance Abuse: These issues can lead to job loss, fractured relationships, and other complications. The resulting instability can often lead to homelessness.

Read More: How Many Guns Does The Average American Own

Health Factors

  • 25% of the homeless population have a severe mental illness.
  • 17% of the homeless population have a substance abuse disorder.

Health factors greatly contribute to homelessness in America, like.

  • Mental Health Issues: People with untreated mental health conditions can face challenges in maintaining a job or stable housing. Their condition might lead to loss of employment or strained personal relationships, often resulting in homelessness.
  • Addiction: People struggling with substance abuse may spend a significant portion of their income on drugs or alcohol, leaving less money for housing. Addiction can also lead to job loss and broken relationships, which can result in homelessness.

In addition, lack of access to healthcare can make these situations worse. 

Individuals with mental health issues or addiction need proper treatment and support. 

Without this help, avoiding or escaping homelessness can be hard.

Mental health issues can make maintaining a job or housing difficult. 

Addiction can lead to job loss and financial problems. 

Both can result in homelessness.

Lack of healthcare can make these issues worse. 

It can intensify the link between these health problems and homelessness.

Read More: How Many People Are Murdered In The US Every Day

Solutions To Address Homelessness In The US

Let’s look at programs that help reduce how many people are homeless in America.

Federal Programs

One key federal initiative is the Housing First program

This program prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness. 

The idea is simple: give people housing first, then address other issues like:

  • job training 
  • mental health support

Studies show that Housing First is effective in reducing the number of homeless people in America.

Especially among those with mental health issues or addictions.

Another federal effort is the Continuum of Care (CoC) program. 

The CoC provides funding to local groups that help homeless people find housing and offer other supportive services. 

This program has helped many people transition out of homelessness.

State Programs

States and cities also play a big role in addressing homelessness. 

In Utah, for example, a state-level version of Housing First has nearly eradicated chronic homelessness.

Cities like Houston and Philadelphia have created coordinated entry systems to manage resources for homeless people more efficiently. 

These systems help ensure that the most vulnerable people receive help first.

Read More: How Many People Starve To Death In America

FAQs About How Many People Are Homeless In America

Here are other questions we found about how many people are homeless in America. 

What Percentage Of The US Is Homeless?

Last year, 18 out of every 10,000 people in the US experienced homelessness. 

This equates to about 0.18% of the population or roughly 582,462 people.

Which US City Has The Most Homeless?

The city with the most homeless people in the US is the Santa Cruz-Watsonville area in California.

In the Santa Cruz-Watsonville area of California, there are 2,250 homeless individuals. 

Given the total population of 273,000, this means that ~0.82% of the population is homeless.

What Is The Main Cause Of Homelessness In America?

The main cause of homelessness in America is a lack of affordable housing. 

Other significant factors include poverty, unemployment, and low wages. 

Personal circumstances that can also lead to homelessness are: 

  • mental illness
  • substance abuse
  • domestic violence 

It’s important to note that these factors often interact in complex ways.

And a person’s risk of becoming homeless can be influenced by a combination of these issues.


  • Statista. (2022). Homeless people in the U.S. 2007-2022. 
  • Wisevoter. (2023). Homeless Population by State 2023.
  • Local Today News. (2023). The number of homeless people in Georgia has been increasing since 2020. 
  • The Georgia Sun. (2023). How does Georgia’s homeless rate compare to the rest of the country?

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