According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, every year alone, over 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness, and well over one million of them are children.
The causes of homelessness are many, including job loss, lack of affordable housing, medical crisis, domestic abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans. It is estimated that 85 percent of people experiencing homelessness are only situational and can be moved back to self-sufficiency.
A total of 552,830 people were experiencing homelessness on a single night in 2018. This number represents 17 out of every 10,000 people in the United States. HUD’s Annual Point-in-Time Count, the only nation-wide survey of homeless people, provides this data and other useful statistics.
Most people experiencing homelessness are individuals (67 percent). The remainder (33 percent) are people in families with children. Public policy has put a focus on additional subpopulations.
Between 2017 and 2018, homelessness increased slightly by 0.3 percent or 1,834 people.
However, national counts have generally trended downward over the last decade. Since 2007, the year HUD began collecting this data, homelessness decreased by 15 percent. This number masks more substantial subgroup progress over this time period. Most notably, veterans’ homelessness has dropped by 38 percent since 2007. Amongst people in families, there has been a 23 percent decrease. And chronic homelessness among individuals has fallen by 19 percent.
Homeless individuals are experiencing far less progress, with their rates dropping by only 10 percent. The group broadly includes some subgroup members (Veterans, Chronically Homeless, Youth)—but most are adults who don’t fall into any one of those categories. As the largest subgroup, making up 67 percent of the total population, solutions for individuals are critical to efforts to end homelessness.
Nationally, the most prevalent homeless assistance intervention is permanent supportive housing. The number of beds in this category has grown by 92 percent since 2007. Emergency shelter beds, the second most common intervention, have increased 35 percent since 2007.
Rapid rehousing, the newest type of permanent housing intervention, has quickly grown by 450 percent over the last five years.
Transitional housing is the only intervention on the decline—there are 52 percent fewer beds in that category than there were in 2007. This follows a national trend of states and communities shifting resources away from temporary transitional housing and towards permanent housing options (such as permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing).