- 2017 saw a 9% increase in the homeless population, and 2018 continued the trend with a .3% increase.
- Among all those counted, 60% were male and 39% were female.
- A 2% increase in unsheltered persons was primarily responsible for the overall increase in homelessness for 2018.
- The number of veterans and families with children who were homeless each fell by 5%.
- More than half of homeless persons were counted in the 50 largest metropolitan areas.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress this month, showing that homelessness increased slightly from 2017 to 2018. Despite HUD’s press release stating “homelessness unchanged,” this is the second year in a row with a rise in the number of homeless persons, after declining over the six years before.
The increase was fueled by a rise among unsheltered people. There was also a rise in persons experiencing chronic homelessness, but also declines for homeless veterans and families with children. African-Americans are over-represented among people experiencing homelessness.
The report – mandated by Congress – analyzes data from over 3,000 state and local governments, and a count of homeless people in January each year. 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 temporarily with friends or family.
On a single night in January 2018, 552,830 people experienced homelessness. 2017 saw a 9% increase in the homeless population, and 2018 continued the trend with a .3% increase. People in sheltered locations were 65% of those experiencing homelessness, while 35% were unsheltered. A 2% increase in unsheltered persons was primarily responsible for the overall increase in homelessness for 2018. Four states sheltered at least 95% of people experiencing homelessness: Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York.
Among all those counted, 60% were male and 39% were female. Almost 70% of unsheltered persons counted were male. Children were one-fifth of all those counted, meaning over 110,000 children were homeless on the night of the count. Almost 49% of people counted were white, and 59% of unsheltered persons were white. Although African-Americans make up only 13% of the U.S. population, they made up almost 40% of those experiencing homelessness.
People experiencing chronic or long-term homelessness are those with a disability who have been homeless for a year or more. The number of people who are chronically homeless grew by 2% in 2018. However, chronically homeless persons using shelters grew by 16%, while the number of unsheltered chronically homeless persons dropped by 4%. This may be due to improved outreach by service providers or the adoption of “rapid re-housing” strategies by many local and state organizations. The rapid re-housing approach focuses on moving people as quickly as possible into stable housing, then addressing other service needs.
Some positive news is that the number of homeless veterans fell by 5% in 2018. Decreases in the number of homeless veterans were seen among both sheltered and unsheltered persons. A few states sheltered more than 95% of their homeless veterans, including Wyoming, where no veterans were unsheltered. The other states were Nebraska, Rhode Island, New York, Wisconsin, Delaware and New Hampshire. In five states, more than half of all veterans were unsheltered. These were California, Mississippi, Oregon, Hawaii and Washington.
The number of people experiencing homelessness in families with children fell by 5%. On a single night in January 2018 there were more than 180,000 homeless persons in families with children. More than 90% of these persons were in sheltered locations, and the decline in homelessness among families with children is largely due to the drop in families who are unsheltered.
The January, 2018 count also found 36,000 unaccompanied homeless youth. More than half of these youth were unsheltered.
More than half of homeless persons were counted in the 50 largest metropolitan areas. One-fifth of persons experiencing homelessness were counted in areas with largely rural populations.
HUD emphasizes how homelessness has been falling since 2010. The steady decrease in the number of homeless persons coincided with the Obama Administration. The recent increases have occurred since the Trump Administration took office, but so far have been modest. Program funding, administration policies and economic factors all impact efforts to reduce homeless. Understanding what has changed in the last two years can help communities continue to reduce homelessness over the long term.
Edited by Nathan Brunet