in 2020 580,466 people in the United States experienced homelessness on any given night. That is a nearly 2.2% increase from 2019 and the fourth year in a row the number of people experiencing homelessness has risen—an increase almost entirely driven by people who are unsheltered.

According to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, the United States has twelve states with more than 10,000 people experiencing homelessness, including Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington.


There is a common misconception that alcohol and drug abuse are the root causes of homelessness, however, this is rarely the case.  In most situations, multiple factors are at play.

Simple economic issues are among the most critical factors contributing to homelessness.  These include the lack of affordable housing, poverty, lack of employment opportunities, and low wages.  Far too many people are living so close to the edge of economic disaster that one financial setback, such as job loss, car troubles, illness, divorce, abandonment, or any unexpected expense can lead to the loss of their home.

Non-economic factors can also play a role in homelessness. These include psychological or physical disabilities, learning disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, medical conditions, drug and alcohol dependence, a history of childhood abuse, sexual abuse, or some combination of these. Domestic abuse, for example, is the leading cause of homelessness among women, and a shocking 84% of homeless women have experienced severe physical or sexual abuse at some point in their lives.


In order to find sustainable solutions to this national crisis, we need to understand the types of homelessness millions of people in this country face every day.

Here is a breakdown of the four types of homelessness people face in the United States:

hidden homelessness

Individuals who live with others temporarily without a permanent home are considered “hidden homeless,” as it is often most unnoticed. Since they lack access to housing support resources and cannot be identified, they are ‘hidden’ from national statistics on homelessness.

Since they lack access to housing support resources and cannot be identified, they are ‘hidden’ from national statistics on homelessness.

People who experience hidden homelessness, often turn to friends, family, and neighbors for a shelter or a place of refuge. In a lot of cases, many of these people cannot afford to pay rent or afford other living expenses.

Many in the “hidden homeless” population are younger people who have experienced a sudden catastrophic life change, trauma, or challenges as a result. Youth are often harassed and discriminated against when they seek alternative housing, which contributes to their disproportionately high rate of homelessness. Compared to older people, young people are often considered “invisible homeless” – and statistics about them are scarce as they don’t typically access services. The first sign of homelessness for them may be couch surfing or sleeping over with friends, which is considered to be less serious — and obvious — than sleeping on the street.

episodic homelessness

People can also experience “episodic homelessness”, whether they are currently unhoused or experienced at least three periods of homelessness within the last 12 months. In contrast, those confronting the realities of “chronic homelessness” usually experience four periods within a calendar year without a home.

Like transitional homelessness, many of those facing episodic homelessness are younger or dealing with a disabling condition. These conditions could be substance use disorder, mental illness, and other mental and/or physical health conditions. In some cases, some episodically unhoused people have seasonal or minimum wage income jobs.

Episodic homelessness can eventually become chronic homelessness without adequate resources and support.

transitional homelessness

Transitional homelessness is “a state of homelessness that’s a result of a major life change or catastrophic event”. These life changes might be job loss, a health condition, divorce, domestic abuse, a substance use disorder, or personal or family crisis, among many others, resulting in people being in unhoused situations for less than a year.

People who experience transitional homelessness may enter a transitional housing program for a limited time. They may also sleep in their cars or outside. Oftentimes people experiencing transitional homelessness still have jobs, but cannot afford housing and other expenses.

Many people experiencing transitional homelessness tend to be younger. Youth are often harassed and discriminated against when they seek alternative housing, contributing to their disproportionately high rate of homelessness. Compared to older people, young people are often considered “invisible homeless,” and statistics about them are scarce as they don’t typically access services. The first sign of homelessness for them may be couch surfing or sleeping over with friends, which is considered less serious and obvious than sleeping on the street. About 8% of those who are experiencing homelessness identify as youth or young adults. On average, there are around 550,000 people under the age of 24 and 380,000 under the age of 18 experiencing homelessness per year.

The LGBTQ community faces unique challenges and is often more likely to face violence, abuse, and exploitation. According to the Williams Institute, the most common factor to LGBTQ homelessness is family rejection based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

chronic homelessness

A person experiencing chronic homelessness is defined as “an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition” who has been homeless for more than one year. It’s more common for people experiencing chronic homelessness to also deal with a certain disability, mental health condition, addiction, and other debilitating conditions that restrict their ability to escape homelessness.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, chronically homeless people tend to be older and makeup about 17% of the homeless population. Many chronically unhoused people have complex, long-term health issues and live on the street, in parks, in cars, or in other places that are not suitable or safe for living.

the numbers.

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.

homeless people




Homelessness was once almost exclusively a male issue.  While men still represent the majority of those who experience homelessness, with 60% of the population identifying as male, a far more diverse cross section of the general population is affected.


As of 2020, women account for 39% of those experiencing homelessness. The increasing rate of homelessness among women is exacerbated by high rates of domestic, physical and sexual abuse.

families with children

Not since the Great Depression (1929-1939) have so many families been homeless in the United States. In the 1980’s, families accounted for less than 1% of those experiencing homelessness. Today, families account for almost 30%.

unaccompanied youth

Do you feel like you are seeing more young people on the streets? You probably are, as 34,210 or 6% of people experiencing homelessness are unaccompanied youth under the age of 25. Half of this demographic is living in unsheltered environments.


Despite major strides over the past decade, there are 37,252 veterans experiencing homelessness, or 8% of all homeless adults. Women are the fastest-growing segment of the homeless veteran population and now comprise 9% of the total. 

chronically homeless

120,323 people or about 20% of those experiencing homelessness have chronic patterns of homelessness, meaning they have been homeless for more than a year or have had multiple periods of homelessness over the preceding three years.  The great majority of those who are chronically homeless, almost 64%, are unsheltered.


sheltered/unsheltered #

sheltered/unsheltered %

male/female #

male/female %

families/unaccompanied youth #

families/unaccompanied youth %

chronic/other homelessness #

chronic/other homelessness %

sources and methodology.

Data on homelessness are based on annual point-in-time (PIT) counts conducted by Continuums of Care (CoCs) to estimate the number of people experiencing homelessness on a given night. The latest full counts (sheltered and unsheltered) are from January 2020. National-level sheltered-only data is available for 2021 (along with unsheltered data for about 40 percent of CoCs). Point-in-time data from 2007 to 2021 are available on HUD Exchange.

Rates of homelessness compare point-in-time counts to state, county, and city population data from the Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program (Population and Housing Unit Estimates data tables, 2020 version). Rates for racial, ethnic, and gender demographic groups are drawn from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 5-year Data (2020 version).

Data on homeless assistance, or bed capacity of homeless services programs on a given night, are reported annually by CoCs along with point-in-time counts. These data are compiled in the Housing Inventory Count (HIC), which is also available on HUD Exchange for 2007 through 2021.

Data on at-risk populations are from analyses by the National Alliance to End Homelessness of the Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey 1-year Estimates. Poor renter households with a severe housing cost burden are households whose total income falls under the applicable poverty threshold and who are paying 50 percent or more of total household income to housing rent. For people living doubled up, poverty is based on the composition and income of the entire household as compared to the poverty thresholds. A person is considered living doubled up based on his or her relationship to the head of household and includes: an adult child (18 years old or older) who is not in school, is married, and/or has children; a sibling; a parent or parent-in-law; an adult grandchild who is not in school; a grandchild who is a member of a subfamily; a son- or daughter-in-law; another relative; or any non-relative.

i Much of the data in this report is derived from the Point-in-Time Count published by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The agency publishes data on people served in shelter and other forms of homeless assistance housing over the course of a year—that information is not reflected in this report.

ii This report includes data on various racial and gender groupings that are a part of the Point-in-Time data collection process. HUD does not require data on other marginalized groups such as people with disabilities, older adults, or members of the LGBTQ community (other than people who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming).

iii The Pacific Islander and Native American groups are relatively small when compared to populations such as whites and Hispanics/Latinxs. This is one of the factors that makes them more difficult for homeless services systems and the Census to count them. There is a need to ensure that data collection efforts focused on these groups becomes more precise. However, available data suggests significant disparities and causes of concern that are worthy of discussion. See USICH, Expert Panel on Homelessness among American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians (2012) and Oversight Hearing on Reaching Hard-to-Count Communities in the 2020 Census, 116th Congress (2020)(testimony of Kevin J. Allis).

iv Surpluses in family beds are partially tied to family housing being organized in units. For instance, each family may be assigned to a unit with four beds. If only two people are in the family, two beds will go unused. Some underutilization can’t be avoided but some systems may need to revisit how they organize family units and plan for the amount of space families will need.

instead of people riding the bus to the service,
the service rides the bus to the people.

dimitri snowden®

blessed founder