Special Report

States With the Most Unsheltered Homeless People

Detailed Findings

While the overall level of homelessness was flat across the country, in some states there have been notable improvements, while in other states the problem has gotten worse.

For instance, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness dropped 5% between 2017 and 2018, and by a remarkable 48% since 2009.

Over the one-year period, overall homelessness declined in 31 states and rose in 19 states. Over the period between 2007 and 2018, homelessness dropped in 39 states and increased in 11.

Presenting the report, HUD Secretary Ben Carson said, “This year’s small increase was in part driven by a significant increase of nearly 3,800 people living in emergency shelters set up after the 2017 hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and in other areas impacted by disasters.”

“Increases in recent years [also] appear to be at least partially explained by more effective practices in documenting chronic patterns of homelessness by local communities,” he said.

The HUD recognizes one of the problem is affordable housing. “Housing is too expensive overall. When housing costs outstrip incomes more people fall into homelessness and there are fewer avenues out,” Carson said.


To identify the states with the most unsheltered homeless people, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the percentage of each state’s homeless population that is unsheltered out of the entire homeless population from The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s report, “The 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress Part 1: Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness.”

In Part 1, HUD provides a snapshot of homelessness on a single night. The one-night counts are conducted in late January of each year. This is the most recent available data. 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.

We also reviewed for each state the median annual household income, poverty rates, median home values, and the share of households receiving SNAP benefits (food stamps) data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. Cost of living in each state (regional price parity) was obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis for the year 2017, the most recent data available.