More Than Half a Million People Are Homeless in the US — Here’s Where Homelessness Is Most, Least Common
Though estimates are constantly in flux, the latest U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) data indicates nearly 580,000 people in the U.S. are considered homeless. To put that in perspective, that’s larger than the population of many major cities, including Miami, Atlanta and Sacramento, Calif.
But where are these homeless people located? To answer, LendingTree analyzed HUD data to find the states with the largest and smallest homeless populations. We found that areas with higher home values tend to have proportionally higher numbers of homeless people.
Our findings ultimately make clear that homelessness is a significant problem across the U.S.
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- California, New York and Florida have the largest homeless populations. Across the three heavily populated states, more than 270,000 people are homeless — nearly half of the U.S. homeless population.
- North Dakota, Wyoming and Mississippi have the smallest homeless populations. North Dakota (610) and Wyoming (648) are the only states with fewer than 1,000 homeless people. In Mississippi, 1,196 people are homeless.
- In each of the nation’s 50 states, people who are homeless don’t exceed 0.50% of the population. In the District of Columbia, that figure is 0.66%. While this could suggest homelessness isn’t particularly prevalent in most of the U.S., it doesn’t diminish the struggle that the nearly 580,000 homeless people in America face.
- Relative to an area’s population, homelessness is most prevalent in the District of Columbia, California and Vermont. Across these areas, an average of 0.51% of the population is homeless. On the other hand, with an average of 0.06% of the population being identified as homeless, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama and Illinois are the states where homelessness is least prevalent relative to the population.
- States with more expensive housing tend to have proportionally higher homeless populations. While expensive housing can exacerbate homelessness, it’s important to note that other, more complex factors — including substance abuse or health problems — can be key drivers behind why people become homeless.
- An average of 58.22% of homeless people across the nation’s 50 states and the District of Columbia stay in shelters. The share of sheltered homeless people is highest in Vermont at 94.39%, but it’s considerably lower in Hawaii at 24.87%.
States with the most homelessness
No. 1: California
- Number of homeless people: 171,521
- Share of homeless people in shelters: 25.98%
- Share of homeless people as a percentage of the population: 0.44%
- Median home price: $648,100
No. 2: New York
- Number of homeless people: 74,178
- Share of homeless people in shelters: 88.49%
- Share of homeless people as a percentage of the population: 0.38%
- Median home price: $368,800
No. 3: Florida
- Number of homeless people: 25,959
- Share of homeless people in shelters: 38.68%
- Share of homeless people as a percentage of the population: 0.12%
- Median home price: $290,700
States with the least homelessness
No. 1: North Dakota
- Number of homeless people: 610
- Share of homeless people in shelters: 65.08%
- Share of homeless people as a percentage of the population: 0.08%
- Median home price: $224,400
No. 2: Wyoming
- Number of homeless people: 648
- Share of homeless people in shelters: 74.85%
- Share of homeless people as a percentage of the population: 0.11%
- Median home price: $266,400
No. 3: Mississippi
- Number of homeless people: 1,196
- Share of homeless people in shelters: 26.17%
- Share of homeless people as a percentage of the population: 0.04%
- Median home price: $145,600
The causes of — and solutions to — homelessness are complex
On the surface, it may be tempting to blame homelessness on straightforward causes like a lack of affordable housing. But the reality of homelessness is much more complex.
For example, as our study shows, the number of people who are homeless tends to be proportionally higher in states where home prices are more expensive. With that in mind, some may conclude that reducing home prices is all that’s needed to end homelessness. Similarly, one might also conclude that using some of the nation’s millions of vacant housing units to house those without a place to call home may be another way to keep people off the streets and out of shelters.
Though some unhoused Americans would likely benefit from finding more affordable homes in their area, many homeless people are so because of additional challenges like substance abuse or mental or physical illness. Merely placing people who struggle with these types of problems in empty houses might keep them off the streets, but it would do little to address real reasons why they became homeless in the first place.
Not only do we have to find places for those without homes to live, but we must also take steps to address the nonfinancial reasons why people are on the streets.
Building more affordable housing and reallocating some empty homes to those who need them are important tools in combating poverty. But without considering the social elements of homelessness, the problem is unlikely to ever be resolved.
Tips for those who may be facing homelessness
Although some people can become homeless through virtually no fault of their own, those in a difficult situation can keep the following tips in mind to potentially reduce their chance of finding themselves without a place to live:
- Apply for low-income housing. Many low-income housing options are available from various organizations, including HUD and local housing authorities across the U.S. By seeking out and applying to rent or buy these types of low-income homes, you may be able to better avoid losing your house. Getting approved to live in low-income housing can be competitive and time-consuming, so the sooner you start looking for low-income housing, the more likely you’ll be able to find and secure it.
- Ask your lender or landlord about mortgage or lease modification options. If you’re experiencing a major financial hardship and finding that you’re falling behind on your rent or mortgage payments, you may be able to have your lease or mortgage terms modified. For example, a mortgage modification can allow you to reduce the cost of your mortgage payment by increasing the duration of your loan’s repayment period or reducing your interest rate. While not everyone will be able to get the terms of their lease or mortgage changed, those who do may be at a lower risk of losing their home due to not being able to afford it.
- Make a plan to keep on top of your housing costs. Carefully planning for housing expenses using tools like the LendingTree mortgage calculator can help homeowners avoid putting themselves in a situation where they risk defaulting on their mortgage and becoming homeless. Though the best-laid plans can sometimes still go awry, the more you know how much you can afford to spend on housing and the better you keep to a budget, the less likely you’ll find yourself without a home.
Population data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest 2022 estimates. Home value data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey with one-year experimental estimates.
Data on the total number of homeless people in each state and the share of those in shelters comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) Point-In-Time (PIT) count for 2022.