HUD 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report Finds Increase in Homelessness for Fourth Consecutive Year

HUD released the 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR), Part 1, which provides estimates of homelessness in the U.S. The 2020 report estimates 580,466 people were experiencing homelessness in January 2020, which reflects a 2% increase from 2019. This is the fourth consecutive year in which homelessness increased nationwide, and the overall increase was driven by an increase in the unsheltered homeless population. For the first time since data collection began, the count found more individuals (people not in families with children) experiencing unsheltered homelessness than sheltered homelessness. It is important to note that the report is based on data collected prior to the coronavirus pandemic. The report shows that homelessness was increasing even before the onset of the pandemic and its economic fallout.

The AHAR summarizes estimates of homelessness at the national, state, and Continuum of Care (CoC) levels based on data from the annual point-in-time (PIT) counts of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness on a single night in January. Continuums of Care are local planning bodies responsible for coordinating homelessness services. The PIT counts, conducted by local volunteers, are a “snapshot” of homelessness.

Sixty-one percent of all people experiencing homelessness were staying in sheltered locations, such as emergency shelters, transitional housing, or safe havens. Thirty-nine percent were unsheltered, living in places not meant for human habitation, such as streets, parks, vehicles, or abandoned buildings. California accounted for more than half of all unsheltered people in the country. In Arizona, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and Oregon, more than half of all people experiencing homelessness were found in unsheltered locations. By contrast, in New York, Nebraska, North Dakota, Maine, and Massachusetts, at least 92% of people experiencing homelessness were sheltered. New York has the lowest rate of people experiencing homelessness who were unsheltered in the country, despite having the highest rate of homelessness (47 out of every 10,000 people).

Roughly 70% (408,891) of the homeless population in January 2020 were individuals—that is, people in households not composed of both adults and children. In 2020, for the first time, there were more unsheltered individuals (209,413) than sheltered individuals (199,478). Between 2019 and 2020, the population of individuals experiencing homelessness increased by 3%.

Roughly 30% (171,575) of the homeless population in January 2020 were in families with children. The average homeless family household consisted of three people, and just under 54,000 families were experiencing homelessness. There was essentially no change in family homelessness between 2019 and 2020, though compared to 2007, there has been a 27% decline in the number of people in families experiencing homelessness. Nine in ten people experiencing homelessness in families with children were sheltered. For the first time since data collection began, though, the number of unsheltered people in families with children increased in 2020.

Twenty-six percent (151,607) of the homeless population were youths under the age of 25. The PIT count found 34,210 unaccompanied youths under the age of 25, which represented 6% of the total population experiencing homelessness. Slightly more than half of unaccompanied homeless youths were staying in sheltered locations. There were also 7,335 homeless parenting youths under the age of 25.

People of color remain overrepresented among the homeless population compared to the U.S. population. Whereas they represent 12% of the U.S. population, Black people accounted for 39% of all people experiencing homelessness in 2020. People identifying as Latino account for 16% of the total population but 23% of the homeless population. American Indian, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, and Native Hawaiian people account for 1% of the U.S. population but 5% of the homeless population. White people account for 74% of the total U.S. population but only 48% of all people experiencing homelessness. Between 2019 and 2020, unsheltered homelessness increased by 8% for white people, 9% for Black people, and 10% for Latino people.

Twenty-one out of every 10,000 veterans in the United States were experiencing homelessness. The 37,252 veterans experiencing homelessness in 2020 accounted for 8% of all homeless adults. Between 2019 and 2020, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness increased slightly, by less than 1%. This increase is driven by an increase in unsheltered homelessness among veterans. Even with that slight increase in 2020, veteran homelessness has declined by almost 50% since 2009.

The 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, Part 1 is available at: