Annual HUD report shows rise in homelessness for third year

“Homeless in Austin” Photo by Dustin Ground on

HUD’s 2019 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) shows that although homelessness decreased in many states, overall it rose for the third straight year under the Trump administration.

Key Facts:

  • There were 567,715 homeless persons counted in January, 2019, an increase of 2.7% in the homeless population.
  • 63% of homeless persons were sheltered and 37% unsheltered. This is a 2% increase in the unsheltered population over 2018.
  • 61% of homeless persons counted were male and 39% were female. Less than 1% identified as transgender.
  • Homelessness declined in 29 states and the District of Columbia. These improvements were offset by increases in homelessness on the West Coast.
  • There was growth in the unsheltered homeless population and in the number of persons who are chronically homeless.
  • There were fewer veterans and families with children experiencing homelessness in 2019, continuing positive trends over the last several years.

HUD is required by law to present an annual report to Congress on the current situation with homelessness. The report analyzes data from over 3.000 state and local governments, and a national count of homeless people in January each year.

The count is done mostly by local Continuum of Care networks that include local government, nonprofit agencies and volunteers. It counts people living in homeless shelters and transitional housing, and also those who are unsheltered and living outdoors.

Although it is the best data available on the homeless population, it is likely that the report undercounts homelessness around the country. For example, it does not count people who are “couch surfing,” or staying short-term with friends or family. It also does not capture seasonal changes. Unsheltered homelessness may be more common in warmer months in much of the country.

There were 567,715 persons experiencing homelessness when the count was done on a single night in January 2019. This is a 2.7% increase in the number of homeless people over 2018. 63% of homeless persons were in sheltered locations, while 37% were unsheltered. The unsheltered population increased by 2% in 2019.

Five states sheltered at least 95% of their residents experiencing homelessness in 2019: Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, and North Dakota. Maine, Massachusetts and New York also sheltered at least 95% of their homeless population in 2018.

Of the people counted, 61% were men or boys and 39% were women or girls. Children were 19% of the total homeless population, and 8% were youth ages 18-24. Only 9% of children were unsheltered, whether they were with families or on their own. Unsheltered homelessness declined for children and youth, but it increased 11% for adults. Unsheltered homelessness rose by 12% among women in 2019. This is a higher rate than the 7% increase in unsheltered homelessness for men.

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Almost half of all people experiencing homelessness in 2019 were white. White people were also 57% of unsheltered persons. African-Americans were over-represented among homeless persons. African-Americans were 40% of those experiencing homelessness, and 27% of unsheltered persons, but only 12.7% of the U.S. population. 22% of persons experiencing homelessness were Hispanic or Latino.

There were 96,141 chronically homeless persons, which is nearly one-quarter of all people experiencing homelessness in 2019. This is a 9% increase. Chronically homeless persons have been homeless for at least one year or experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years. 65% of chronically homeless persons were unsheltered.

Two bright spots were drops in homelessness among veterans and families with children. Veteran homelessness continued several years of improvement, declining 2% in 2019. The numbers of homeless veterans are half of what they were in 2010. Homelessness among families with children fell by 4.8%. There has been a 27% decline in homeless families with children since 2007.

There were 35,038 homeless unaccompanied youth, ages 18-24. This is a 3.6% decline for 2019. However, 50% of unaccompanied youth were living in unsheltered locations.

Although homelessness increased by 2.7% overall, it declined in 29 states and the District of Columbia. The report points to substantial growth in homelessness on the West Coast offsetting improvements in other parts of the country. California’s homeless population grew far more than any other state in 2019, increasing by 19,769 persons (18%). New York had the second largest growth, with an increase of 2,286 homeless persons. Oregon was third with an increase of 1,215 homeless persons.

People in unsheltered locations were a much greater share of the homeless population on the West Coast as well. In California, 80% of homeless people were unsheltered in 2019, followed by 72% in Hawaii and 66% in Oregon.

In the press release announcing the report, HUD Secretary Ben Carson said, “As we look across our nation we see great progress, but we’re also seeing an continued increase in street homelessness along our West Coast where the cost of housing is extremely high. In fact, homelessness in California is at a crisis level and needs to be addressed by local and state leaders with crisis-like urgency. Addressing these challenges will require a broader, community-wide response that engages every level of government to compassionately house our fellow citizens who call the streets their home.”

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