This is according to the most recent national point-in-time estimate (January 2017). This represents a rate of approximately 17 people experiencing homelessness per every 10,000 people in the general population.
The total number of people experiencing homelessness increased slightly compared with 2016, but the rate per 10,000 people is at its lowest value on record. This is because overall population growth is outpacing the growth of homelessness. Homelessness rates in individual states ranged from highs of 110 and 51 in the District of Columbia (D.C.) and Hawaii, to 5 in Mississippi.
In 2017, the vast majority of the homeless population lived in some form of shelter or in transitional housing (360,867 people) at the time of the point-in-time count. Approximately 34 percent (192,875 people) lived in a place not meant for human habitation, such as the street or an abandoned building. Single individuals comprised 66.7 percent of all people experiencing homelessness (369,081 people), with the remaining 33.3 percent being people in families (184,661 adults and children). Looking further, 7.2 percent were veterans (40,056 veterans), and 7.4 percent were unaccompanied children and young adults (40,799 children and young adults).
From 2016 to 2017, homelessness increased nationally by 0.7 percent. The largest increases were among unaccompanied children and young adults (14.3 percent increase), individuals experiencing chronic homelessness (12.2 percent increase), and people experiencing unsheltered homelessness (9.4 percent increase). The number of people in families experiencing homelessness decreased 5.2 percent.
Between 2007 and 2017, homelessness decreased overall and across every major category of homelessness nationally. Overall homelessness decreased 14.4 percent. The most dramatic decreases in homelessness have been among veterans (34.3 percent), individuals experiencing chronic homelessness (27.4 percent), and people living in unsheltered locations (24.6 percent).
Communities across the country respond to homelessness with a variety of housing and services programs, including emergency shelters, transitional housing, rapid re-housing, and permanent supportive housing. Over the last decade, a shift has occurred in homeless assistance, placing a greater emphasis on permanent housing solutions to homelessness—such as permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing—over transitional housing programs. Permanent housing interventions account for about half of the beds in the U.S. overall (52.8 percent).
Permanent supportive housing is currently the intervention which has the most capacity, representing 41.8 percent of all homeless assistance beds. Emergency shelter has the next highest capacity level, accounting for 32.8 percent of homeless assistance beds. Rapid re-housing is a relatively newer intervention; capacity data has only been collected since 2013. Nationally, it accounts for more than one in ten beds, but the growth rate has been dramatic—a 372 percent increase from 2013 to 2017.
Many people with low incomes are at risk of homelessness. Ultimately, this is due to a lack of affordable housing.
The number of poor, renter households experiencing a severe housing cost burden (i.e., those paying more than 50 percent of their income toward housing) totaled 6,902,060 in 2016. This is 3.1 percent lower than 2015, but still 20.8 percent greater than 2007.
According to an analysis of the 2016 American Community Survey, an estimated 4,609,826 people in poor households were living “doubled up” with family and friends. This represents one of the most common prior living situations for people who become homeless. The 2016 rate is 5.7 percent lower than 2015, but still 30.0 percent greater than in 2007.