Homelessness In America



10 Facts About Homelessness in the U.S.

Here’s a brief look at the current state of the nation’s homeless population.

A man stands in front of a tent at a small homeless encampment on a freeway overpass on Sept. 16, 2019 in Los Angeles.
A man stands in front of a tent at a small homeless encampment on a freeway overpass on Sept. 16, 2019, in Los Angeles.(MARIO TAMA/GETTY IMAGES)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP has ruffled feathers of California officials and others this summer with his comments about homelessness in U.S. cities.

While boarding Air Force One Sept. 18, Trump said that the Environmental Protection Agency will be issuing a "notice" to San Francisco for its homelessness, which he claims is causing environmental damage. "There's tremendous pollution being put into the ocean," Trump said, according to NBC News. "There are needles, there are other things." He added, "We can't have our cities going to hell."

In an interview with Fox News in July, Trump appeared to blame the homeless population for playing a role in ruining cities and appeared to suggest the U.S. is going through an alarming increase in homelessness. "We've never had this in our lives before in our country," he said.

But what is the true state of homelessness in the U.S.? Here are 10 facts about homelessness in America:

1. Although homelessness increased slightly – by 0.3% – between 2017 and 2018, it's been on a general downward trend for the past decade, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. In 2018, about 553,000 people were homeless for at least one night, according to the nonprofit organization. Between 2007 and 2012, an average of 630,000 people experienced homelessness per year.

2. Half of all people experiencing homelessness in 2018 were in one of five states, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: California (24%), New York (17%), Florida (6%), Texas (5%) and Washington (4%). Of the country's urban areas that include a major city, New York, Los Angeles/Los Angeles County, and Seattle/King County had the most homeless people.

3. African Americans represent 13% of the U.S. population but 40% of all people experiencing homelessness and 51% of individuals who are homeless with children, according to HUD.

4. In January 2018, 38,000 veterans faced homelessness on a given night – half the number than in 2010. The rate of overall homelessness has also dropped significantly, by 13% over that same time period.

5. Males are more likely than women to be homeless in the U.S.— 60% of homeless people were males in 2018, according to HUD.

6. HUD defines homelessness by dividing it into four categories:

  • Someone who lacks a fixed, adequate nighttime residence;
  • Someone who is at imminent risk of homelessness;
  • Unaccompanied youth under age 25 or families with children who haven't had permanent housing over the past 60 days or who have moved at least twice during that period and are expected to continue this pattern due to special needs or barriers;
  • An individual or family that is fleeing domestic violence and has no other residence.

7. An estimated 700,000 youth under age 18 without a parent or guardian experience homelessness each year, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. Often they are in their situation as a result of parental mental health issues, parental abuse or neglect, severe family conflict, or being forced to leave home after sharing that they are pregnant or identify as LGBTQ.

8. Homelessness has been exacerbated by the nation's lack of affordable housing. A worker earning minimum wage in the U.S. would have to work nearly 127 hours per week to afford a modest two-bedroom rental home in most of the U.S., according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

9. On a single night in 2018, nearly a quarter of the homeless population was considered chronically homeless. According to HUD, an individual is considered chronically homeless if he or she has a disability, including a substance use disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and serious mental illness, and has been homeless continuously for at least one year or on at least four occasions in the last three years (with those instances adding up to at least a year). California, New York, and Washington saw the highest numbers of chronically homeless people.

10. The number of beds provided for homeless people in transitional housing, which provides interim stability and support to successfully move to permanent housing, has been cut in half since 2007. However, the number of beds has increased drastically in emergency shelters and permanent supportive housing. Permanent supportive housing includes affordable housing assistance and support services, including treatment and employment services, to people who are chronically homeless.


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