Special Report

48 Major US Cities Struggling to Shelter Growing Homeless Population

The number of people experiencing homelessness in the United States in 2018 increased for the second consecutive year. In 2017, homelessness had increased for the first time in seven years. On a single night last year, more than half a million Americans lacked permanent shelter, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A significant number of people staying in sheltered locations in January 2018 — about 4,000 — were likely displaced by presidentially declared national disasters, including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate.

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 can also 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 2017 and 2018, a large share of the country’s homeless population are children. More than 180,000 people in families with children and approximately 36,000 individuals under 25 experienced homelessness.

Among the myriad of 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 2018 American Community Survey. Cities are ranked by total population, in ascending order.

Click here to read about the 48 major U.S. cities struggling to shelter growing homeless populations.

To identify the cities with the most unsheltered homeless people, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) for the 48 Continuums of Care (CoC) identified as major cities. The CoCs identified as major cities with the highest percentage of their overall homeless population that is unsheltered were considered the cities with the most unsheltered homeless people. The AHAR defines CoCs as “local planning bodies responsible for coordinating the full range of homelessness services in a geographic area, which may cover a city, county, metropolitan area, or an entire state.”

Homeless populations for each CoC are estimated during one night in the last week of January each year. Shelters include emergency shelters, transitional housing programs, safe havens, rapid re-housing programs, permanent supportive housing programs, and other permanent housing programs. The percentage of homeless people in families, in families with children, and the level of chronic homelessness — individuals who have been homeless for one year or more — also came from the HUD. Total population for the city proper is from the 2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. All other data is from the 2018 AHAR report.

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