Has Homelessness Increased Nationwide During the Past Two Years? Five States will Reveal Half of the Story

Joe Colletti, PhD
Hub for Urban Initiatives
August 2017 

When the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) publishes the results of the 2017 country-wide homeless count, we will find out if homelessness has increased or decreased collectively across the country during the past couple of years, and five states will reveal half of the story. Table 1 below shows that more than half (51%) of the country’s homeless population counted in 2015 lived on the streets or in temporary shelter in five states—California, Florida, New York, Texas, and Massachusetts.  

NOTE: HUD requires all the Continuums of Care (CoC) within a state to conduct a sheltered and unsheltered homeless count every two years, which falls on odd number years.

             The Five States 

Table 1. Total Number of Homeless Persons in the United States by State including the District of Columbia in 2015

State

Total Homeless Persons

 

#

%

California

115,738

20.7

New York

88,250

15.8

Florida

35,900

6.4

Texas

23,678

4.3

Massachusetts

21,135

3.8

45 states and District of Columbia

273,917

49.0

Total:

558,618

100

Table 1 lists the five states—California, Florida, New York, Texas, and Massachusetts—and the total number of persons for each state in 2015, which totaled 284,701 or 51% of the country’s total homeless population for that year.  

A comparison of the 2017 point-in-time homeless count data to the 2015 count data may reveal a reversal of fortune when the 2017 homeless count information is released. The reversal may be true if most, or all, of the aforementioned five states reveal increases, even if most, or all, of the other 45 states and the District of Columbia were to reveal decreases. 

            Five More States 

Table 2 lists an additional five states—Washington, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Oregon, and Illinois—and the total number of persons counted for each of these five states in 2015. When their total number of persons is added to the total number of persons counted in the five states previously noted above, the total number of persons counted in the 10 states is 359,734, which represents nearly two-thirds (64.4%) of the total number of persons counted throughout the United States in 2015. 

Table 2. Total Number of Homeless Persons in the United States by State including the District of Columbia in 2015

State

Total Homeless Persons

 

#

%

California

115,738

20.7

New York

88,250

15.8

Florida

35,900

6.4

Texas

23,678

4.3

Massachusetts

21,135

3.8

Washington

19,419

3.5

Pennsylvania

15,421

2.8

Georgia

13,790

2.5

Oregon

13,226

2.4

Illinois

13,177

2.3

40 states and District of Columbia

198,884

35.6

Total:

558,618

100

As previously noted, a comparison of the 2017 point-in-time homeless count to the 2015 count information may reveal a reversal of fortune when this year’s homeless count information is released. When looking at the information for the 10 states mentioned above, a reversal may be true if many of the 10 states had increases in the number of homeless persons natiowide, even if many of the other states and the District of Columbia had decreases. 

A 10-Year Comparison 

An increase in the total number of persons counted as homeless in the 50 states including the District of Columbia during the last two years, would reveal a reversal of fortune when compared to the 10 year period between 2005 and 2015.  

The following table notes the decreases that were reported every two years by the CoCs nationwide between 2005 and 2015. 

Table 3. Number of Persons Who Were Homeless in the United States including the District of Columbia: 2005 - 2015

 

Year

 

# of Persons Who Were Homeless in the United States

 

Difference (+/-)

 

 

#

%

2005

754,147

-

-

2007

641,665

-112,482

-14.9

2009

624,598

-17,067

-2.7

2011

618,611

-5,987

-1.0

2013

584,543

-34,068

-5.5

2015

558,618

-25,925

-4.4

There are indications that suggest that a reversal of fortune occurred as noted in various media stories and reports that focused on 2017 homeless count results.  A recent brief released by Urban Initiatives entitled “After Nearly a Decade of Decreases in Homelessness in the United States 2017 May Reveal a Reversal of Fortune” noted that homelessness may have increased by approximately 20% in California between 2015 and 2017 based on various media stories and published reports. 

We will know if homelessness has increased nationwide once the 2017 homeless count numbers are released. The public may be informed that the number of homeless persons has increased collectively when all the states are totaled together. However, increases in some or most of the five states of California, Florida, New York, Texas, and Massachusetts may be the reason why, which begs the question “why is homelessness increasing in some states like California and not in many other states?”

Comments

It appears that there is a reduction, I would be interested in seeing a comparison of funds allocated for housing and services to homeless during the same time period in the states where homelessness seems to be concentrated. Additionally, I am interested seeing similar data related to entitlement programs for women and children in those states.

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