State of Homelessness: 2022 Edition
In 2021, the Coronavirus pandemic interrupted homelessness data collection, specifically the Point-in-Time Count. Thus, the current version of the State of Homelessness reflects limited updates as compared to the previous year. Since 2020 was the last year for which full Point-in-Time data is available, the analysis and charts focused on that year continue to be highlighted here. Updated and new sections are flagged in the report’s subheadings.
In January 2020 , there were 580,466 people experiencing homelessness on our streets and in shelters in America.i Most were individuals (70 percent), and the rest were people in families with children. They lived in every state and territory, and they include people from every gender, racial, and ethnic group. However, some groups are far more likely than others to become homeless.
Special Populations. Historically, policymakers and practitioners at every level of government have focused special attention on specific populations and sub-populations.
For example, decision-makers are often concerned about children and young people due to their developmental needs and the potential life-long consequences of hardships in early in life. People in families with children make up 30 percent of the homeless population. Unaccompanied youth (under age 25) account for six percent of the larger group.
People experiencing “chronic homelessness” belong to another group that is often singled out for attention. These individuals have disabilities and have also: 1) been continuously homeless for at least a year; or 2) experienced homelessness at least four times in the last three years for a combined length of time of at least a year. Chronically homeless individuals are currently 19 percent of the homeless population.
Finally, due to their service to our country, veterans are often analyzed separately from the larger group. They represent only six percent of people experiencing homelessness.
Populations Most at Risk. Although the homeless population is diverse, inequalities are evident among subgroups. To identify meaningful differences among groups, it is necessary to look beyond overall population counts. Comparing rates of homelessness (or a group’s homeless counts within the context or its overall size) reveals which groups are more likely to experience homelessness (or which ones are more at-risk of being in these circumstances).
Risk is significantly tied to gender, race, and ethnicity.ii Males are far more likely to experience homelessness than their female counterparts. Out of every 10,000 males, 22 are homeless. For women and girls, that number is 13. Gender disparities are even more evident when the focus is solely on individual adults (the most significant subgroup within homelessness). The overwhelming majority (70 percent) are men.
Race is another significant predictor. As with so many other areas of American life, historically marginalized groups are more likely to be disadvantaged within housing and homelessness spheres. Higher unemployment rates, lower incomes, less access to healthcare, and higher incarceration rates are some of the factors likely contributing to higher rates of homelessness among people of color.
Numerically, white people are the largest racial group within homelessness, accounting for more than a quarter-million people. However, historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups are often far more likely to experience homelessness. The reasons for the disparities are many and varied but tend to fall under the umbrellas of racism and caste. Throughout American history, private actors have contributed to the status quo, but so has government via actions and inactions resulting in limited housing opportunities, suppressed wages, and other unhelpful outcomes.
Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders have the highest rate of homelessness (109 out of every 10,000 people).iii Groups such as Native Americans (45 out of every 10,000) and Black or African Americans (52 out of every 10,000) also experience elevated rates. Importantly, these rates are much higher than the nation’s overall rate of homelessness (18 out of every 10,000).
Unsheltered Homelessness. The nation has a system of temporary shelters that reaches 354,000 people on a given night. However, some still sleep in locations not ordinarily designated for that purpose (for example, sidewalks, subway trains, vehicles, or parks). Unsheltered people are considered particularly vulnerable due to their exposure to the elements and lack of safety, among other things.
Homeless programs and systems provide shelter for most people experiencing homelessness (61 percent in 2020). However, significant variation exists among populations and sub-populations. For example, children are often a priority for homeless services systems. As a result, families with children are least likely to be unsheltered (only ten percent of unsheltered people were living in families with children). However, young people not living with their families do not enjoy the same access to services—50 percent of unaccompanied homeless youth in 2020 were unsheltered.
Individuals experiencing homelessness on their own are particularly at risk of being unsheltered. In 2020, for the first time since data collection began, the majority of those who were homeless as individual adults (51 percent) were unsheltered. These circumstances were most likely for those who are chronically homeless, with 66 percent living without any shelter at all.