Homelessness remains one of the most pressing social issues in the United States, affecting hundreds of thousands of individuals and families across the nation. Addressing homelessness in the current landscape requires a nuanced understanding of these changing trends and a flexible approach to policy and intervention.

As the factors contributing to homelessness evolve, so too must the strategies to combat it. Continued investment in affordable housing, healthcare, and comprehensive support services, paired with innovative policy solutions, will be essential in reversing the trends of recent years and reducing homelessness across the country.

Learn more: How Many People Live in Poverty In the US Today?

How Many Homeless People Are There in the US Today?
How Many Homeless People Are in the US Today?

History of Homelessness

Throughout the history of the country, there have been ups and downs in terms of homelessness, with peaks occurring during the colonial era, pre-industrial era, post-Civil War years, Great Depression, and the present.

Even though there are many factors contributing to homelessness in the modern world, many of them are policy failures, severely underfunded programs that have caused a shortage of affordable housing, wages that are not keeping up with rising housing costs and rent, insufficient safety nets, unequal access to high-quality healthcare, particularly mental health care, education, and economic opportunities, and mass incarceration. In actuality, over half of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and are only one crisis away from becoming homeless.

Racism, both past and present, is the fundamental cause of these systemic shortcomings. People of color and other historically marginalized groups (such as LGBTQI+ youth) have been denied rights and excluded from opportunities in ways that still have negative effects today. These practices range from mass incarceration and redlining to slavery and the Indian Removal Act.

How many are homeless in America?

As of today, homelessness remains a critical issue across the United States, with recent data highlighting the persistent struggle faced by many Americans to secure stable and safe housing. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) latest Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, there are approximately 653,104 homeless individuals nationwide, a slight increase from previous years.

Which cities currently have the highest rates of homelessness?

The CoCs with the biggest homeless populations, out of the 50 largest US cities, were those with New York (88,025) and Los Angeles (71,320), which were also the largest cities overall.

Each Community of Concern (CoC) represents a population that varies according to the particular areas it covers; government agencies do not directly provide CoC population data. For instance, the five boroughs of New York City, which had an 8.3 million-person population in 2022, are represented by the New York City CoC. With the exception of Long Beach, Pasadena, and Glendale, 85 of the 88 cities in Los Angeles County are included in Los Angeles City and County CoC. In 2022, the combined population of these regions was estimated to be 8.9 million. These numbers showed that there were 106 homeless persons per 10,000 residents in the City and County of New York and 78 in the City and County of Los Angeles.

At least 1,000 homeless people were identified in each of the 49 major cities CoCs in 2023 (46 of them).


Homeless population


New York City



Los Angeles City & County



Seattle/King County



San Diego City and County



Metropolitan Denver



San Jose/Santa Clara City & County



Oakland, Berkeley/Alameda County



Phoenix, Mesa/Maricopa County



Sacramento City & County



San Francisco


Who is Homeless: Based on Gender

Gender is an important factor to consider. Men, who make up 68% of the total population and are significantly more numerous than women, account for a greater proportion of the homeless population (which comprises both adults and children). Regarding some of America's men, there are serious systemic failures that point to gaps in the social safety net, problems with feeder systems, and obstacles to rehousing.

In the meantime, a notable representation of the homeless population is made up of women (both single and in families with children), as well as those who identify as transgender, nonbinary (defined by HUD as "not singularly female or male"), and questioning (see visualization below). They have particular needs and obstacles that also need to be met.

Scope of the Crisis

Homelessness affects every state in the nation but is most severe in urban areas where housing costs are highest. California, New York, and Florida are among the states with the largest homeless populations due to a combination of high living costs, limited affordable housing, and insufficient mental health services.

Cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have the highest numbers of homeless individuals. In Los Angeles alone, over 66,000 people are experiencing homelessness, a stark reflection of the housing crisis gripping California.

Drivers of Homelessness

The reasons behind homelessness are multifaceted and complex. Major contributing factors include:

Affordability: The most significant driver is a lack of affordable housing. Rent prices continue to rise, particularly in major cities, leaving more individuals and families unable to afford housing.

Income Inequality: Economic disparities play a critical role. Low-wage workers often struggle to cover basic living costs, pushing them toward homelessness.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse:The problem is made worse by limited access to treatment for mental health disorders and drug addiction, since those who leave these problems untreated are more likely to lose their homes.

Systemic Failures: Systemic problems are also present, such as the foster care system's shortcomings and the lack of support for veterans, which leave vulnerable populations without a safety net.

Natural Disasters and Climate Change: Climate change has made natural disasters more frequent, which has contributed to the recent increases in homelessness. Homes and communities have been destroyed by hurricanes, wildfires, and floods; low-income families are disproportionately affected because they may not have insurance or the resources to rebuild. These disasters frequently result in both short-term and long-term displacement, which increases homelessness and emphasizes the need for responsive support systems, including housing assistance, and disaster preparedness.

Addressing the Crisis: Solutions and Strategies

In an attempt to end homelessness, various governmental and non-governmental tactics are used:

Increasing Affordable Housing: Many think that just making more affordable housing available is the best course of action. Promising initiatives include "housing-first" programs, which put the provision of permanent housing for the homeless ahead of addressing other problems like mental health or substance abuse.

Enhanced Support Services: It's also critical to improve access to healthcare, especially to mental health and addiction treatment services. People have found that programs designed to offer all-encompassing support services have been successful in helping them to stabilize their lives.

Policy Initiatives: In terms of policy, programs like housing vouchers and rent control are essential for assisting low-income families in affording housing. Programs for education and training on the job are also essential for helping people improve their earning potential and financial security.

Community Involvement: Local communities play a pivotal role. Volunteerism and local non-profits are at the forefront of providing immediate assistance and advocacy for policy changes.


Homelessness in the United States necessitates ongoing focus and intervention from all segments of society. The resolution of this crisis necessitates a multifaceted approach that encompasses the augmentation of affordable housing, the provision of comprehensive support services, and the implementation of efficacious policies.

Through the examination and resolution of the fundamental factors contributing to homelessness, coupled with the implementation of all-encompassing and empathetic measures, there exists a glimmer of optimism regarding the potential for a future in which every individual possesses a permanent dwelling.

Veterans and more kids were becoming homeless

HUD predicts that in 2023, the number of homeless families with children, veterans, and unaccompanied youth will increase.

Since 2022, the proportion of homeless families with children has risen by more than 15%. HUD asserts that the increase was almost entirely the result of families who were able to access shelters for the homeless.

The percentage of veterans experiencing homelessness increased by over 7% following some of the steepest declines in American history. The percentage of homeless veterans fell by more than 11% between 2020 and 2022.

HUD reports that in 2023, unaccompanied youth who were 24 years of age or younger made up 22% of all homeless youth. Since the previous year, there has been a 15% increase in the number of homeless and unaccompanied youth, with increases observed in both sheltered and unsheltered youth. The groups most likely to face youth homelessness are LGBTQ+ youth and foster children who age out of the system without permanent housing.

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