Homelessness in America 2023:
Statistics, Analysis, & Trends
As housing costs rise, more than half a million people lack homes, including nearly 100k children.
Written By: Security.org Team | Published: January 25, 2023
Homelessness in America is a pressing crisis that can be difficult to document. The same pandemic conditions that ravaged the economy and disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable kept the government from accurately counting those left without shelter.
Following a period of limited data, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently completed its first comprehensive Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) in two years. It found that nearly 600,000 Americans are unhoused on any night – a slight increase over pre-COVID numbers. A deeper dive into the census reveals that while overall numbers were relatively stable during COVID’s reign, some demographics shifted notably.
As part of Security.org’s ongoing commitment to highlighting this societal problem, this annual report examines the overall scope of the homelessness issue, explores its geographical distribution, and identifies groups most at risk. This article builds on our previous reports from 2022, 2021, and 2019.
- 582,462 individuals are experiencing homelessness in America, an increase of about 2,000 people since the last complete census conducted in 2020.
- About 30 percent of people without homes are experiencing chronic patterns of homelessness. This means they’ve been without homes for more than 12 months or have experienced extended periods of extended homelessness over the past three years.
- Most states saw their homeless populations rise since 2019, including four where the tally more than doubled (Delaware, Vermont, Louisiana, Maine).
- Sixty percent of individuals experiencing homelessness are male, though unsheltered homelessness rose by five percent among women and girls. More than a quarter of those experiencing homelessness were with their families and children.
- Much progress has been made in reducing homelessness among military veterans. Homelessness in this population declined by 11 percent over the past two years and has been halved since 2010.
FYI: Most U.S. cities exhibit a positive correlation between homelessness and crime rates. While we must prioritize compassion in addressing homelessness, it is understandable to exercise caution if you live in a neighborhood with high homelessness rates. We tackle all the different ways a home security system protects you and your family in our home security guide.
American Homelessness in 2022: An Overview
In December of 2022, HUD calculated that 582,462 people were experiencing homelessness in the United States and its territories. That number represented an increase of nearly 2,000 individuals over the last complete accounting of 2020, yet remained steady at .18 percent of the nation’s population.
Despite this slight increase in those without homes since the pandemic’s start and gradual increases since 2016, the number of people experiencing homelessness is lower today than a decade ago.
Of those experiencing homelessness, 60 percent found refuge in sheltered locations (like emergency shelters, safe havens, or transitional housing programs). The other 40 percent spent their nights unsheltered (often on the street, in abandoned buildings, or in other places not designated/suitable for human habitation).
These proportions mark a three percent increase in unsheltered individuals combined with a two percent decrease among those in shelter facilities. Though available shelter beds increased over the last two years (aided by emergency funding through the federal CARES act), the shift may reflect COVID restrictions compelling reduced occupancy.
Sadly, more than a quarter of those experiencing homelessness in 2022 did so as part of a family with children. Though the number of families without permanent homes is distressing, this group had greater access to assistance. Nearly nine in ten unhoused people who were part of families with children were sheltered – a much higher percentage than individuals experiencing homelessness (49 percent). Thankfully, the number of unhoused people in families with children has declined each year since 2012 and fallen collectively by one-third in that time.
Regional Trends in Homelessness
Homelessness touches communities of all sizes across every region, though some bear its brunt more than others. Contributing factors to the concentration of the unhoused include local financial hardship, housing markets, climate conditions, and available social resources.
Though the common conception of those experiencing homelessness might be unsheltered individuals on the streets of a city, the issue reaches communities of all types. While most unhoused Americans occupy urban areas, many live in suburban and rural settings.
Among major cities, Los Angeles (54,469 individuals) and New York City (32,308) have the largest unhoused populations, collectively accounting for nearly one-fifth of the country’s total afflicted. No other city contains more than 10,000 persons experiencing homelessness, with Seattle, San Jose, and Oakland/San Francisco rounding out the top five afflicted metroplexes.
Major cities saw an increase in unhoused individuals over the past two years (5,694 additional persons) and featured the highest percentage of unsheltered homeless (55 percent). However, the most notable expansion in unhoused populations occurred in rural areas, where homeless numbers have jumped six percent since 2020.
Regionally, the western United States exhibited the highest per capita rates of homelessness, though numbers varied significantly by state.
|States with largest populations of homeless people||States with most people experiencing homelessness per capita||Fastest growing populations of people in homelessness 2019 – 2022|
|Texas||24,432||New York||37.4||Rhode Island||49%|
California, New York, Florida, Washington, and Texas had the highest number of unhoused individuals. Vermont, Oregon, and Hawaii join CA and NY as the most afflicted states per capita. Delaware, Vermont, Louisiana, and Maine recorded the most significant percentage increases in homelessness – each more than doubling its rate since 2019.
In all, twenty-eight states saw homelessness increase in the latest AHAR. To find the extent of the homeless problem in your state, consult the data appendix below.
Special Populations Experiencing Homelessness
Every instance of homelessness has an element of tragedy, and each springs from a singular tale, yet certain commonalities and communities emerge among the unhoused population. Historically, armed forces veterans and BIPOC individuals are more likely to experience homelessness. At the same time, children and young adults on the streets before their adult lives have started may be the most vulnerable victims.
One of the most troubling trends is the continuing surge of individuals experiencing chronic patterns of homelessness. This includes people who have been homeless for more than 12 months or have experienced extended periods of extended homelessness over the past three years.
Currently, about 30 percent of unhoused individuals suffer from these chronic patterns. That number jumped 16 percent over the past two years and has grown by 64 percent since 2016.
In Nevada, Oregon, California, Colorado, and Oklahoma, a third or more of people experiencing homelessness were caught in chronic homelessness. These states had the highest rates of chronic homelessness.
Homelessness Among America’s Youth
We previously noted the numbers of families experiencing homelessness, yet those do not account for all unhoused young people. Though advocates claim that the number of unhoused youths is vastly underreported, HUD found that more than 30,000 unaccompanied Americans under age 25 lack a permanent dwelling, and 13,000 of those young people are unsheltered.
Since the pandemic’s start, governments, nonprofits, and other groups have made progress in reducing youth homelessness. The number of unaccompanied youths experiencing homelessness in America decreased by 12 percent between 2020 and 2022. California registered the most significant drop of any state (2,582 individuals) but still accounts for one-third of the country’s unhoused youth.
The states with the largest shares of minors experiencing homelessness were Massachusetts (39 percent under 18), Delaware (32 percent), and Louisiana (31 percent).
Racial Disparities: Homelessness Across the Ethnic Spectrum
As with many economic hardships, homelessness affects BIPOC communities most deeply. The Black community suffers particularly hard, comprising nearly forty percent of all unhoused persons.
All racial groups other than White and Asian Americans experience homelessness at a rate that is disproportionately high to their share of the population. The same is true of those identifying as Hispanic or Latino, a separate classification in the federal statistical system.
Racial Disparities in Homelessness
Demographic characteristics of people experiencing homelessness, compared to national population
Conversely, the number of Black individuals identifying as homeless dropped by over 11,000 over the past two years, as most other communities endured a rise in their unhoused ranks.
Forgotten Warriors: The Plight of Homeless Veterans
Perhaps the brightest spot of progress in the battle against homelessness comes from the count of unhoused veterans. At the start of the last decade, more than 74,000 veterans were without permanent lodgings, with that community experiencing homelessness at a rate double the national average. Following years of increased funding and targeted initiatives, signs of success have emerged.
In 2022 HUD found that 33,129 veterans were experiencing homelessness – a decline of 11 percent over the past two years and more than 50 percent from 2010. Today, approximately seven percent of unhoused Americans are veterans, which is still unacceptable but commensurate with their share of the population at large.
The states with the largest proportion of veterans in their homeless populations were:
- Mississippi: 12 percent
- Montana: 11 percent
- Wyoming: 10 percent
- South Carolina: 10 percent
- Nevada: 10 percent
New York had the lowest percentage of veterans in their homeless populations at just one percent.
Following a year of incomplete data, HUD completed a comprehensive 2022 point-in-time survey of American homelessness. It showed that the number of unhoused individuals grew slightly (less than one percent) during the pandemic period.
Some would label this increase a failure of societal policies, while others might credit an influx of funding and proactive countermeasures with preventing a far worse catastrophe (some estimated that COVID and its accompanying recession would spike homelessness by 49 percent).
All would agree that with nearly 600,000 individuals unhoused, the nation still faces a challenging problem, especially among vulnerable communities. The Biden administration recently unveiled a new strategic plan to tackle the crisis. Still, as conservatives seize the nation’s purse strings and housing costs continually rise, many foresee the problem deepening.
As mandated by Congress, a new Annual Homelessness Assessment Report will be issued next year, updating the country’s progress. Security.org will again analyze the numbers for you.
All figures on homelessness come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Annual Homelessness Assessment Reports to Congress, with the latest statistics derived from its 2022 Point in Time homelessness count. You can access the tables and HUD’s latest report to Congress here. Demographic information regarding the general population came from publically available figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.
|State||2022 total unhoused||Percentage change since 2019||Percent of people experiencing homeless under age 18||Percent military veterans||Percent in chronic homelessness|
|District Of Columbia||4,410||-32%||14%||5%||29%|
Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Annual Homelessness Assessment Reports to Congress (2022).