Special Report

Major American Cities Struggling to Shelter Growing Homeless Populations

The number of people experiencing homelessness in the United States last year increased for the first time in seven years. More than half a million Americans lack permanent shelter, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The rise in homelessness was the result of more individuals staying in unsheltered locations in major cities, according to HUD.

The problem of homelessness is at its root a problem of affordable housing. According to statistics compiled by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 11 million low-income households spend half or more of their annual income on housing. As housing prices — especially in large cities — continue to rise faster than incomes, more people are likely to become homeless.

There are serious health risks associated with homelessness, which increases exposure to weather and disease. Homelessness also can lead to and is often accompanied by untreated medical issues, mental illness, social isolation, and increased risk of substance use disorders. While the number of families with children experiencing homelessness declined between 2016 and 2017, a large share of the country’s homeless population are children. Approximately 184,661 people in families with children experience homelessness, or about one-third of the total homeless population.

Among the myriad government anti-poverty programs is the Continuum of Care Program, which was designed by HUD to promote community efforts across the nation to end homelessness. Federal funds are dispersed through these jurisdictions to the communities they contain — cities, counties, and sometimes entire states.

Using data provided by HUD, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the estimated total number of individuals experiencing homelessness in the 48 HUD jurisdictions (Continuums of Care) representing the 50 largest cities in America. City population data is for the city proper and came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey. Cities are ranked by population, in ascending order.

Click here to see the major American cities struggling to shelter growing homeless populations.