Homelessness in the United States
This data, unless otherwise noted, is from the National Alliance to End Homelessness’ State of Homelessness: 2020 Edition
- 17 out of every 10,000 people in the United States were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2019 during HUD’s Annual Point-in-Time Count. These 567,715 people represent a cross-section of America. They are associated with every region of the country, family status, gender category, and racial/ethnic group.
- 56% of people experiencing homelessness are in the five states that have the largest homeless counts: California, New York, Florida, Texas, and Washington. Thus, much of this national challenge is located in a small number of places, with most jurisdictions having a much smaller problem to manage. Many of the high rate states are associated with other notable housing issues. Researchers and advocates cite many of them as having the highest housing costs and highest rent burdens (housing costs as a percentage of income) in the nation.
- Over the last five years, the number of temporary housing beds (Emergency Shelter, Safe Haven, and Transitional Housing) has decreased by 9%.
- According to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty’s report “HOUSING NOT HANDCUFFS 2019: Ending the Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities” research shows that the criminalization of homelessness is prevalent across the country and has increased in every measured category since 2006, when the Law Center began tracking these policies nationwide. Criminalization of homelessness results in fines and fees that perpetuate the cycle of poverty. Financial obligations, such as from fines for using a tent or vehicle to shelter oneself, can prolong the amount of time
that a person will experience homelessness, and can also leave homeless people less able to pay for food, transportation, medication, or other necessities. Civil and court-imposed fines and fees can also prevent a person from being accepted into housing, or even result in their incarceration for failure to pay them.
A 2017 RAND Corporation analysis of the Housing for Health program in LA County concluded that the county saved about 20% by putting people with complex mental health issues in supportive housing rather than relying on law enforcement and emergency room visits.
- Homelessness and poverty are inextricably linked. Poor people are frequently unable to pay for housing, food, childcare, health care, and education. Difficult choices must be made when limited resources cover only some of these necessities. Often it is housing, which absorbs a high proportion of income that must be dropped. If you are poor, you are essentially an illness, an accident, or a paycheck away from living on the streets. (from the National Coalition for the Homeless)