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Homelessness Statistics: How Many People Are Homeless in America in 2023?

Learn key facts about the number of homeless in the US in 2023.

Jane Tumar - Finance Writer
Written by
Finance Writer
Derek Sall - Personal Finance Expert
Reviewed by
Personal Finance Expert
14 min
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Table of contents:

It might be a bitter pill to swallow, but you and I are much closer to becoming homeless than turning into the next Elon Musk—with plenty of Americans being one medical emergency away from homelessness. We’ve compiled a list of the most crucial statistics you need to know about this ongoing issue. 

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You’ll learn:

  • How many people experience homelessness in America.
  • What homelessness is—the definition’s broader than you think.
  • Who’s most at risk of losing housing—and what risks they’ll face afterward.
  • Why criminalizing homelessness doesn’t work. 
  • How to help unhoused people in the US.

Homelessness in America: Key Facts

Let’s take a look at the number of homeless in the US:

  • On a single night in 2022, there were 582,500 people affected by homelessness in the United States. (AHAR to Congress, 2022)
  • Some reports estimate this number can be ten times higher in reality. (NLCHP) 
  • About 24.5 million (or 7.4%) of Americans have experienced homelessness in their lifetime. (NCBI)

(The Department of Housing and Urban Development conducts a point-in-time (PIT) snapshot—an annual count of homeless people on a January night.)

Check out more key statistics:

Homeless population in America: an overview

  1. Sheltered (60%)—people are staying in shelters or transitional housing. (AHAR to Congress, 2022)
  2. Unsheltered (40%)—people are sleeping on the street, in their cars, or in abandoned buildings. (AHAR to Congress, 2022)
  • On a given night, 354,000 Americans sleep in temporary shelters. (NAEH, 2022)
  • Most people without homes are single adults over 25. (NAEH, 2022) 
  • Families with children comprise 28% of people who experience homelessness in America. (AHAR to Congress, 2022)
  • The most common homeless family consists of a single mother under 27 and two young children. (SAMHSA, 2022)
  • 13,000 homeless Americans die of violence every year. (NLCHP)
  • In some cities, like Seattle, a third of all homicide victims are homeless. (NLCHP)
  • There are roughly 150 million homeless people in the world. (UN Habitat)

Homeless in America: Definitions

  • “Literal homelessness”—a person’s nighttime residence isn’t meant for sleeping—they are staying in a homeless shelter, or have moved to permanent housing in the past 90 days. (HUD)
  • Besides literal homelessness, people can be considered homeless if they’re:
    • Trying to escape an abusive home. 
    • Exchanging sex for housing. 
    • Staying with friends short-term.
    • Doubling-up—families forced to stay together in the housing designed for one. 
    • About to lose their housing in the next 2 weeks. (HUD)

The United Nations adds even more categories of homelessness:

  • Rough sleeping—sleeping on the streets, in parks, or other public places nightly. (UN)
  • Pavement dwelling—building informal housing with some basic structure on the sidewalk. The term originated in Mumbai, India. (UN)
  • Squatting—staying regularly in the same abandoned building. (UN)
  • Residing in dangerous conditions—for example, on a boat or a floating platform. (UN)
  • Living in a refugee camp without the possibility of returning home. (UN)

Homelessness Rate in the US: Demographics 

Six in ten Americans are one paycheck away from losing their housing (Invisible People, 2021). However, some groups are more at risk than others—

Veteran homelessness statistics

  • Veterans account for around 6% of homeless people in America. (NAEH, 2022)
  • Veterans who served in Vietnam are at the greatest risk of becoming homeless. (NAEH, 2022)
  • The number of homeless veterans fell by 11% between 2020 and 2022 and by 55% since 2009. (AHAR to Congress, 2022) 

Homelessness in America: age, gender and ethnicity

  • People are chronically homeless if they are disabled and meet one of the following conditions:
  1. They’ve been homeless continuously for at least a year.
  2. They’ve been homeless four times (or more) for a combined period of at least 12 months in the past three years. (NAEH, 2022)
  • Chronically homeless people make up 19% of the homeless population. (NAEH, 2022)
  • They are the largest unsheltered group with 66.4%. (NAEH, 2022)
  • Older homeless population (aged 55+) has been growing rapidly and is expected to triple by 2030. (UPenn) 
  • More than half of unhoused veterans and a third of chronically homeless people are older adults. (NAEH, 2022)
  • Men are 1.5 times more likely to experience homelessness than women. (NAEH, 2022)
  • The transgender homeless are less likely to sleep in a shelter—63% are unsheltered. Among other gender non-conforming people that number is even higher at 80%. (Security.org, 2021; NAEH)
  • 17% of unhoused transgender people report being sexually assaulted in homeless shelters. (NCTE) 
  • Even though white people are the largest group of homeless individuals numerically, people of color are far more likely to experience homelessness. (NAEH, 2022)
  • Black Americans make up only 12% of the population, but they constitute 37% of all people without housing, and 50% of homeless families with kids. (AHAR to Congress, 2022)

Homelessness rate in the US by ethnic groups:

Ethnic group  Rate per 10,000 people
Pacific Islander 109
Black 51.9
Native American 45.2
Multiracial (Mixed) 39
Hispanic 21.5
White 11.2
Asian 3.9

(NAEH, 2022)

Contributing factors for people of color who experience homelessness:

  • Higher unemployment rate
  • Lower income
  • Limited access to healthcare
  • Higher incarceration rate
  • Racial discrimination (NAEH, 2022)

Youth Homelessness: Homeless Teens and Children in America

  • 1.3 million (or one in 18) children under the age of six experience homelessness in the United States. (FFCFC, 2021) 
  • Half of the homeless schoolchildren experience depression and anxiety. (FFCFC, 2021)
  • People under 25 who are on their own (“unaccompanied youth”) make up 6% of the homeless population. (NAEH, 2022)
  • Almost half of all unaccompanied youth are unsheltered (living on the streets). (NAEH, 2022) 
  • The number of homeless transgender youth rose by 29% between 2020 and 2021. (AHAR to Congress, 2021)
  • Up to 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT+. (HUD Exchange, 2022)
  • A quarter of LGBT+ teens are forced to leave their homes when they come out to their families. (The True Colors Fund)
  • A third of homeless youth have been in the foster care system. (NLCH)
  • Youth of color are 83% more at risk of becoming homeless. (Housing Up, 2022)

Homelessness and education: homeless students

  • More than a million public school students in the US are homeless—that’s 2.2% of all students. (NCHE, 2022)
  • The number of homeless students has gone up by 63% in the past 15 years. (NCHE, 2022)
  • Homeless students are 87% more likely to drop out. (FFCFC, 2021)

Homelessness Causes: Statistics

Here are some causes of homelessness in America in 2023—

1. Lack of affordable housing: housing insecurity

  • The gap between income and housing costs is by far the main cause of homelessness in the United States. (NLCHP) 
  • Ronald Reagan’s cuts the funding for affordable housing in the 1980s is how homelessness got out of hand in the US. (In the Midst of Plenty)
  • Since the mid-1980s, subsidized housing has been disappearing at a rate of 10,000 units per year. (NLCHP)
  • There’s at least a 7 million shortage of homes for low-income renters. (NLIHC, 2022)
  • Only 10 out of 100 homes are affordable and available to low-income renters in some cities—Las Vegas being one of them. (NLCHP)
  • If rent went up by just 10% in New York City, over 6,000 people would end up homeless. (NLCHP)
  • Evictions cause anywhere between 14 and 66 percent of new homelessness cases. (NHLC) 

2. (Un)employment: poverty and homelessness

  • 63% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. (LendingClub, 2022)
  • 40% of homeless shelter residents in NYC have a job, but earn too low an income to afford housing. (NLCHP)
  • There are no states where minimum wage workers can afford a one-bedroom apartment. (NIHC, 2021)
  • An average minimum wage worker would need to work 97 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom rental. (NIHC, 2021)
  • Median wages only grew by 8.8% since 1979. (NIHC, 2021)
  • Employment’s been down 28% for low-wage workers in the pandemic. (NIHC, 2021)

3. Fleeing domestic violence

  • 38% of all survivors of domestic violence will experience homelessness in their lifetime. (NNEDV)
  • Up to 57% of homeless women say domestic violence was the main cause of their homelessness. (NNEDV)
  • Four out of ten American cities name domestic violence as the primary reason behind homelessness there. (NNEDV)

4. Former incarceration

  • People who’ve been to prison are ten times more likely to experience homelessness. (PPI)
  • The risk is 13 times higher for people who have been imprisoned more than once. (PPI)
  • More than 50,000 people enter shelters straight out of prison or jail every year. (HUD)
  • Jail to homelessness pipeline goes both ways—people without homes are 11 times more likely to get arrested. (NLCHP)

Homelessness and Health

Here’s how homelessness affects people’s physical and mental health—

  • Homeless people tend to experience “accelerated aging”. Geriatric conditions (dementia, functional impairments, falls) manifest in their 50s—average housed adults go through these changes at 75+. (The Gerontologist)
  • Mortality rates are four times higher among older adults without homes. (NHCHC)
  • Only 32% of homeless people living with HIV are virally suppressed in comparison with 75% of the housed individual. (SFAF)
  • Unhoused people are far more likely to get tuberculosis than the general public—in Texas, the rate of tuberculosis is 77 times higher among its homeless population. (Texas DSHS)
  • Up to 52.5% of older homeless men have hepatitis C. (PubMed)
  • Pandemic homelessness affected people with diabetes 48 times more than an average American. (ADA)
  • Overall, homeless people die 12 years sooner than the general population. (NHCHC) 
  • Homeless people who live on the streets die 20 to 30 years earlier. (CHCF; NLCHP)
  • Frostbite amputations rose by 300% among homeless people in the cities where camping bans had gone into effect. (NLCHP) 
  • More people die of hypothermia in Los Angeles than in New York City and San Francisco combined. (NLCHP; LA Times) 
  • During the pandemic, an average homeless individual with COVID-19 has been 30% more likely to pass away. (Forbes)
  • In Los Angeles County, homeless people with COVID have been 50% more likely to die. (Forbes)

Mental illness and homelessness in numbers

Homelessness is often associated with mental health issues and addiction—both are factors that put people at risk of losing housing. 

  • Over half of all homeless people experience symptoms of mental illness, and at least 30% suffer from severe mental disorders. (UCLA Law Review)
  • For comparison, about 18.5% of the general US population have some mental illness, and only 4.5%—severe forms. (UCLA Law Review)
  • Up to 75% of women who don’t have housing experience symptoms of mental illness. (HomelessHub, 2021) 
  • People who experience homelessness are at a greater risk of opioid addiction—they are 750% more likely to end up in hospital for opioid-related reasons. (PubMed)
  • In Boston, MA, opioid overdose is the leading cause of death among homeless people (causing 91% of all deaths). (JAMA Network, 2022)
  • Homeless adults between 25 and 44 are nine times more likely to die from a drug overdose than adults who have housing. (JAMA Network, 2022)

State of Homelessness: Highest Homeless Population by State 

Which state has the highest homeless population?

  • More than half of all homeless people in the US live in just four states:
  1. California—30%
  2. New York—13%
  3. Florida—5%
  4. Washington—4% (AHAR to Congress, 2022)
  • During the pandemic, the number of people who experience homelessness rose in more states than it fell. (AHAR to Congress, 2022)
  • New York’s the state where the number of unhoused people went down the most during the pandemic—by 17,000 people. (AHAR to Congress, 2022)
  • States where most homeless population is unsheltered and living on the streets:
  • California—67%
  • Mississippi—64%
  • Hawaii—63%
  • Oregon—62%
  • Arizona—59%
  • Tennessee—58%
  • Arkansas—53%
  • Georgia—52% (AHAR to Congress, 2022)
  • In contrast, these states house the overwhelming majority of their homeless population:
  • Vermont—98%
  • Maine—96%
  • New York—95% (AHAR to Congress, 2022)

Among all fifty states, there’s one notorious for homelessness—

California homelessness statistics

  • California has the highest rate of homelessness in the country—44 out of 10,000 people. (AHAR to Congress, 2022)
  • More than half (around 115,500) of all unsheltered homeless people live in California—that’s nine times the number of unsheltered people in the second-place state, Washington. (NAEH, 2022; AHAR to Congress, 2022) 
  • California also accounts for the absolute majority of chronically homeless people. The same’s true for every group of homeless people, except for families with kids, most of which live in New York. (NAEH, 2022) 
  • Even when homelessness was falling nationwide a decade ago, it rose in California by 42%. (Stanford, 2022)

Is Homelessness Increasing? Trends in the Pandemic Era

  • 2016 was the turning point for the crisis—after a decade of steady decline, homelessness began to climb up again. (HUD, 2022)
  • Homelessness went up by 0.3% from 2020 to 2022. (HUD, 2022)
  • The number of people in shelters dropped by 1.6%, while unsheltered homelessness rose by 3.4% in the past two years. (HUD, 2022)
  • Sheltered homelessness fell during COVID-19:
  1. Social-distancing led to reduced shelter capacity.
  2. Eviction moratorium reduced the number of people who’d end up homeless otherwise. 
  • How sheltered homelessness changed during the pandemic:
State Change (2020 to 2022) Rate (per 100,000 people)
Vermont 210% 303.9
Arkansas 38% 39.8
Minnesota 23% 65.1
Nevada 23% 87.4
Delaware 21% 73.4
Montana 19% 67.4
California 17% 83.9
Colorado 15% 95.8
Virginia 13% 39.7
Utah 11% 49.9
Maine 10% 93.1
Arizona 8% 45.4
Alaska 6% 176.8
New Jersey 3% 52
District of Columbia 0% 476.8
Rhode Island 0% 56
South Dakota 0% 57.7
New York -1% 190.5
Washington -4% 90.6
Wisconsin -4% 38.6
Florida -6% 38.6
New Hampshire -8% 46.7
Oregon -8% 98.1
Connecticut -9% 41.7
Alabama -10% 23.1
New Mexico -11% 57.5
Texas -12% 25.5
Indiana -13% 40.6
Iowa -13% 41.4
Massachusetts -13% 61.2
Michigan -13% 37.5
North Dakota -13% 37.4
Hawaii -14% 79.2
Ohio -14% 42.6
Illinois -15% 32.1
Georgia -16% 28.8
Kansas -17% 37.9
Maryland -17% 44.8
Oklahoma -17% 42
Mississippi -18% 9.2
Missouri -19% 38.2
Nebraska -19% 65.2
North Carolina -19% 34.2
Louisiana -20% 24.9
Pennsylvania -20% 42
Tennessee -21% 38.4
Wyoming -21% 42.7
West Virginia -22% 38.3
South Carolina -23% 29.9
Kentucky -24% 37.8
Idaho -25% 31.1

(Security.org, 2022)

  • The number of homeless camps has grown by over 1,400% since 2007. (NHLC).
  • Homelessness is expected to rise by 49% in the current recession. (Economic Roundtable, 2021)

Anti-homelessness Laws in 2023

Criminalization of homelessness keeps rising with the crisis—

  • 72% of American cities have laws prohibiting camping in public. (NLCHP)
  • Half of the cities ban any sleeping in public. (NLCHP)
  • Six out of ten cities restrict living in your vehicle. (NLCHP)
  • There’s been a 42% increase in laws restricting free food sharing since 2016. (NLCHP)
  • A new law took effect in Missouri in January 2023—it makes sleeping on any state property a crime. (The Guardian, 2023)
  • NYPD arrested 470 people for sleeping on a subway train in the first two months of 2022 alone. (Gothamist, 2022)
  • Many of these laws are unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment as they punish homeless people who have no alternative to sleeping outdoors. (Camping ordinances, 2021)
  • It costs taxpayers up to $50,000 per unhoused person a year to criminalize homelessness. (NHLC)
  • Providing supportive housing would cost just a fifth of that sum. (NHLC) 

Assistance in America: Homelessness Programs and Resources

  • It would take $30 billion annually to end homelessness in the United States. (In the Midst of Plenty)
  • There are 1,045,911 year-round beds available to homeless people nationwide. (AHAR to Congress, 2022)
  • Homeless shelters set aside over 48,000 beds for survivors of domestic violence nightly. (NAEH, 2021)
  • There’re not enough beds for everyone homeless in the US—national inventory is 160,000 beds short. (AHAR to Congress, 2022) 

National projects for people experiencing or coming out of homelessness:

Project  Type Percentage Description
Permanent supportive housing Permanent housing 37% Provides housing assistance to people with disabilities who experienced homelessness in the past.
Emergency shelter Temporary shelter 31.5% Provides shelter beds nightly.
Rapid rehousing Permanent housing 14.3% Moves people quickly out of shelter into their permanent home.
Other permanent housing Permanent housing 8.6% Similar to permanent supportive housing, but without the disability requirement.
Transitional housing Temporary shelter 8.3% Arranges a place to stay and supportive services for up to two years.
Safe haven Temporary shelter 0.3% A shelter for people with severe mental illness. Can house no more than 25 people.
  • The number of beds in emergency shelters rose by 56% between 2007 and 2022. (AHAR to Congress, 2022) 
  • Permanent supportive housing more than doubled in the years 2007–2022. (AHAR to Congress, 2022)
  • The only type of assistance that shrunk in the past 15 years is transitional housing. (AHAR to Congress, 2022)
  • Public libraries provide support to unhoused people during the day—and up to 40% of library patrons in big cities experience homelessness. (ALA, 2021)
  • Homeless people who receive permanent housing make 81% fewer visits to the ER, 61% fewer hospital visits—and the psychiatric care costs fall by 79%. (NLCHP)
  • In December 2022, the Biden-Harris administration introduced a strategic plan to reduce homelessness by 25% until January 2025. (USICH, 2022)
  • The new strategy entails:
  1. Housing supply action plan—create new affordable housing.
  2. National mental health strategy—boost system capacity to help people with mental health conditions.
  3. National drug control strategy—provide trauma-informed support and income to people who suffer from addiction. Continue to fight the drug overdose epidemic. (USICH, 2022)

The Bottom Line

With most Americans living from paycheck to paycheck, low-wage workers hugely affected by the pandemic, and the gap between income and housing costs widening, we can expect the homelessness figures to rise—as the cost-of-living crisis and recession will continue to affect Americans from all walks of life. A systemic problem will need comprehensive solutions—we are yet to see how successful the Biden-Harris plan will be in bringing down homelessness and curbing the issue in the future.

Editorial team

Meet the team
Jane Tumar - Finance Writer

Finance Writer

Storyteller by day, data enthusiast when I have free time, meticulous researcher—always. I’ve been working as a content writer for the past 3 years. With my degree in Computer Science and Literature, I am a breathing and walking juxtaposition. I love metaphors, SQL, and round brackets (duh!).

Kacper Kozicki - Editor


Editor, copywriter, and multilingual translator with expertise in producing tailored content for global online brands. When not editing articles for LifeAndMyFinances.com, he enjoys rummaging through paper dictionaries, walking in nature, and making travel plans.

Derek Sall - Personal Finance Expert

Personal Finance Expert

Derek has a Bachelor's degree in Finance and a Master's in Business. As a finance manager in the corporate world, he regularly identified and solved problems at the C-suite level. Today, Derek isn't interested in helping big companies. Instead, he's helping individuals win financially—one email, one article, one person at a time.

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