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The U.S. Cities With the Most Homeless People

This article is published in collaboration with Statista

by Katharina Buchholz


Over half a million Americans are currently homeless. After a period of progress and decline, the U.S. homeless population has increased slightly in 2020 and 2022, according to a report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The 2021 numbers were affected by shelters lowering capacity due to the Covid-19 pandemic during the count that takes places in the first month(s) of every year. It now stands at 582,462 individuals with two thirds living in shelters. While the number of sheltered individuals in 2022 approached the 2020 pre-pandemic level again, the increase in the nation's homeless is primarily due to a rise in the unsheltered homeless population.


Around half of all unsheltered homeless people in the U.S. are located in California. The rates of unsheltered homeless populations are also high in other states on the West Coast. Tent cities are common occurrences in these states as a result of the growing unsheltered homeless populations. This very visible symptom of homelessness has proven divisive, and while some cities have embraced designated areas for camping as a solution for unsheltered people, others have recently cracked down on encampments, for example Sacramento, San Jose and Oakland.


Half of the U.S. homeless population is scattered across the country's 50 biggest cities and their surrounding areas. 22 percent of them live in just two cities - New York and Los Angeles. Despite its considerable homeless population, New York has a very low rate of unsheltered individuals: only 5.4 percent lived on the streets in early 2022, which is in part due to the two cities opposing climates. In California 67.3 percent of homeless people were listed as unsheltered at the same time.


The CoCs for New York and Los Angeles - so-called Continuums of Care or local planning bodies coordinating the response to homelessness - saw around 62,000 and 65,000 homeless people in the early 2022 count. Other CoCs in the U.S. experiencing a high level of homelessness are Seattle/King County with around 13,3000 homeless people registered as part of the count, and San Jose and Santa Clara in California with more than 10,000. Out of the 10 CoCs with the biggest homeless populations registered in 2022, six were located in California.


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