The 25 US Cities With Largest Homeless Populations
America has a homelessness problem, and that problem is only growing.
That is especially true of chronic homelessness, which has risen 65% in the US since a 2016 low. Unsheltered homelessness, most prominent in major cities, has also increased, while rates among families, children and veterans have gone down.
On a single night in January 2022, over half a million people were experiencing homelessness in the US, according to the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report, which informs funding decisions for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The report relies on volunteers who manually canvas communities each January to survey homeless populations.
The report finds that about 30% of America’s homeless individuals last year were experiencing chronic homelessness, while 40% of homeless people were unsheltered, meaning they were sleeping in tents, on the streets or in cars rather than in a shelter. Cities, especially those in milder climates, have higher rates of unsheltered homelessness than smaller urban and rural areas.
The main cause of homelessness in America is a lack of affordable housing, according to the US Conference of Mayors. While many attribute homelessness to mental health issues or substance abuse, housing costs have been shown to have a stronger correlation with a city’s homelessness rate than poverty, substance use and mental or behavioral health disorders.
Homelessness is expensive. This is true for both people experiencing it and organizations combating it. Affordable housing shortages in urban centres, alongside high inflation rates, have pushed many out of their homes. In the last two years, COVID-19 restrictions reduced shelter capacities and access to social assistance programs. Meanwhile, a little more than 20% of those eligible for housing assistance actually receive it, due to barriers such as long waiting lists and preferential treatment for working families and the elderly.
People of color, people with incarceration histories and those who have been involved with the foster care system are all more likely to experience homelessness than other groups, although homeless populations vary widely by state, and by city.
Many of the cities with the highest rates of homelessness aren’t showing signs of improving: only 10 had smaller homeless populations in 2022 than they did in 2020. Six of the top 10 cities are in California, with several in Texas also on the list. .
Here are the top 25 major US cities with the largest homeless populations, as measured by the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report.
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