15 States With the Largest Homeless Populations
Some of the states with the highest rates of homelessness might surprise you.

On any given night during the cold month of January, over 568,000 experience the fear and discomfort of homelessness.

While homelessness rates fell between 2007 and 2019, the problem has started to increase again. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, in 2017, the U.S. began seeing a rise in homelessness year over year for the first time since the most devastating part of the housing crisis in 2010.

Homelessness also has a disproportionate effect across the nation. California, for example, saw a substantial 16% increase in 2019 over 2018. Cities also seem to struggle the most with a lack of housing for the most vulnerable. More than half of all homeless people (53%) are in the 50 largest U.S. cities.

While these numbers are alarming, they likely understate the true size of the problem. The very nature of stigma around homelessness makes people less likely to report how insecure their housing is.

The past year has been challenging for low-income workers as a result of COVID-19. Those who were already at risk for homelessness find themselves in a difficult position. The alarming rise in joblessness, combined with soaring housing and rental prices, means that many people are suddenly unable to pay for their living situations. As a result, 2020 could see the biggest rise yet as lower-income individuals and families grapple with joblessness in the face of the pandemic.

The potential dramatic rise in homelessness during 2020 could make already complicated housing policies even worse.

Chart1 Policy changes gave the homeless fewer transisitional housing options

The most modern approaches to homelessness were developed in the early 1980s. They created an emergency short-term solution because most experts thought that the homelessness created by the 1980–1983 recession would resolve on its own. However, homelessness only continued to grow during the 80s and 90s.

In response to this rise, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) enacted a policy referred to as “Housing First.” The goal of Housing First was to make homelessness brief and non-recurring by getting the homeless out of in-between situations, such as a shelter, and immediately into a permanent home. Housing First was built upon the assumption that permanent housing was the best way to end homelessness. It required that accomodation is provided immediately without any preconditions, such as sobriety. Proponents state that people can start to work on the issues that caused homelessness, such as mental illness or addiction, after they secure housing. The policy started with George W. Bush and continued to grow with each successive president.


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While proponents of Housing First argue that it is more cost-effective and permanent, critics question its effectiveness. The main issue that many communities run into with Housing First is a lack of transitional housing. Critics of Housing First policy state that transitional housing is a critical way to make sure individuals and families stay off the street until more permanent housing can be found. In 2019, transitional housing provided less than 100,000 beds for those who needed a place to stay the night. Funding for transitional housing continues to nosedive. In 2018, only 3% of HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grant Program went to transitional housing, down from 35% in 2005.

Chart2 Despite fewer homeless families homeless individual pop is rising

Most of the recent increase is the large number of individuals experiencing homelessness. Between 2018 and 2019, homelessness in families decreased by 5%. However, cities are seeing a dramatic rise in individual homelessness. California, for example, saw individual homelessness grow 21% in the past year.

To identify the states with the largest homeless populations, researchers at Porch analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2019 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. Using these statistics, they calculated the total homeless population per 10,000 residents. The researchers also incorporated data on the homeless population in families with children, those without shelter, and those who are considered chronically homeless.

Nationwide, there are over 560,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night (a per capita rate of 17.3 per 10,000). Of those, 37.2% live outside of shelters (such as on the streets, in cars, or in parks) and 18.6% are considered chronically homeless.

Here are the areas that have the largest homeless populations.

States with the most people experiencing homelessness

15 Florida Miami WTR294
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

15. Florida

  • Total homeless population per 10k: 13.2
  • Total homeless population: 28,328
  • Homeless individuals (not in families with children): 21,265
  • Homeless population in families with children: 7,063
  • Percentage of homeless population living unsheltered: 44.0%
  • Percentage of homeless population chronically homeless: 20.2%

14 Arizona Mesa M78R44
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

14. Arizona

  • Total homeless population per 10k: 13.7
  • Total homeless population: 10,007
  • Homeless individuals (not in families with children): 7,538
  • Homeless population in families with children: 2,469
  • Percentage of homeless population living unsheltered: 45.3%
  • Percentage of homeless population chronically homeless: 18.7%

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13 Minnesota St Paul K7D274
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

13. Minnesota

  • Total homeless population per 10k: 14.1
  • Total homeless population: 7,977
  • Homeless individuals (not in families with children): 4,586
  • Homeless population in families with children: 3,391
  • Percentage of homeless population living unsheltered: 20.7%
  • Percentage of homeless population chronically homeless: 21.9%

12 New Mexico Albuquerque CXP6M8
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

12. New Mexico

  • Total homeless population per 10k: 15.5
  • Total homeless population: 3,241
  • Homeless individuals (not in families with children): 2,464
  • Homeless population in families with children: 777
  • Percentage of homeless population living unsheltered: 38.8%
  • Percentage of homeless population chronically homeless: 44.9%

11 Maine Bar Harbor GY59N2
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

11. Maine

  • Total homeless population per 10k: 15.7
  • Total homeless population: 2,106
  • Homeless individuals (not in families with children): 1,232
  • Homeless population in families with children: 874
  • Percentage of homeless population living unsheltered: 4.5%
  • Percentage of homeless population chronically homeless: 10.7%

10 Colorado Boulder PD8P0K
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

10. Colorado

  • Total homeless population per 10k: 16.7
  • Total homeless population: 9,619
  • Homeless individuals (not in families with children): 7,263
  • Homeless population in families with children: 2,356
  • Percentage of homeless population living unsheltered: 22.7%
  • Percentage of homeless population chronically homeless: 22.7%

09 Vermont Burlington 2B63FFM
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

9. Vermont

  • Total homeless population per 10k: 17.5
  • Total homeless population: 1,089
  • Homeless individuals (not in families with children): 681
  • Homeless population in families with children: 408
  • Percentage of homeless population living unsheltered: 10.5%
  • Percentage of homeless population chronically homeless: 17.4%

08 Nevada Las Vegas MTJHYC
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

8. Nevada

  • Total homeless population per 10k: 23.3
  • Total homeless population: 7,169
  • Homeless individuals (not in families with children): 6,614
  • Homeless population in families with children: 555
  • Percentage of homeless population living unsheltered: 53.1%
  • Percentage of homeless population chronically homeless: 10.0%

07 Alaska Anchorage C9A4J2
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

7. Alaska

  • Total homeless population per 10k: 26.1
  • Total homeless population: 1,907
  • Homeless individuals (not in families with children): 1,384
  • Homeless population in families with children: 523
  • Percentage of homeless population living unsheltered: 14.3%
  • Percentage of homeless population chronically homeless: 14.1%

06 Massachusetts Boston HT4181
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

6. Massachusetts

  • Total homeless population per 10k: 26.8
  • Total homeless population: 18,471
  • Homeless individuals (not in families with children): 6,259
  • Homeless population in families with children: 12,212
  • Percentage of homeless population living unsheltered: 4.5%
  • Percentage of homeless population chronically homeless: 12.8%

05 Washington Seattle EHJMFD
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

5. Washington

  • Total homeless population per 10k: 28.3
  • Total homeless population: 21,577
  • Homeless individuals (not in families with children): 15,985
  • Homeless population in families with children: 5,592
  • Percentage of homeless population living unsheltered: 44.3%
  • Percentage of homeless population chronically homeless: 22.6%

04 Oregon Portland KTHJEP
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

4. Oregon

  • Total homeless population per 10k: 37.6
  • Total homeless population: 15,876
  • Homeless individuals (not in families with children): 12,354
  • Homeless population in families with children: 3,522
  • Percentage of homeless population living unsheltered: 63.9%
  • Percentage of homeless population chronically homeless: 30.9%

03 California Sacramento HH28NW
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

3. California

  • Total homeless population per 10k: 38.3
  • Total homeless population: 151,278
  • Homeless individuals (not in families with children): 128,777
  • Homeless population in families with children: 22,501
  • Percentage of homeless population living unsheltered: 71.7%
  • Percentage of homeless population chronically homeless: 27.5%

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02 Hanalei Kauai Hawaii 2A7890T
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

2. Hawaii

  • Total homeless population per 10k: 45.3
  • Total homeless population: 6,412
  • Homeless individuals (not in families with children): 4,420
  • Homeless population in families with children: 1,992
  • Percentage of homeless population living unsheltered: 56.8%
  • Percentage of homeless population chronically homeless: 27.6%

01 New York Buffalo PRP666
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

1. New York

  • Total homeless population per 10k: 47.3
  • Total homeless population: 92,091
  • Homeless individuals (not in families with children): 42,113
  • Homeless population in families with children: 49,978
  • Percentage of homeless population living unsheltered: 4.4%
  • Percentage of homeless population chronically homeless: 7.8%

Methodology & detailed findings

The data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2019 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. The estimates offer a snapshot of homelessnes—both sheltered and unsheltered—on a single night at the beginning of the year.

For the purpose of this analysis, homelessness describes a person who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. Unsheltered homelessness refers to people whose usual nighttime residence is not designated, or typically used, for sleeping (e.g. the streets, vehicles, parks, etc.). Chronic homelessness describes those who have been continuously homeless for a year or more or have experienced more than four homeless episodes (with a combined total of at least one year) in the past three years.

To identify the states with the largest homeless populations, researchers calculated the total homeless population per 10,000 residents. In the event of a tie, the state with the larger total homeless population was ranked above.


Source: porch.com