Jan 5, 2024 - News

California leads U.S. in percentage of unsheltered homelessness

Estimated homelessness rate, January 2023
Data: HUD; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

California had the highest percentage of homeless people living without shelter (68%) in the nation last year, per a recently released federal report.

Details: The annual report, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, attempts to estimate the number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night — in this case, in late January 2023 — to offer a snapshot useful to policymakers, advocates, researchers and others.

  • Yes, but: Some advocates believe point-in-time counts can be misleading and may drastically underestimate the true number of houseless individuals, as Axios Portland has reported.

By the numbers: On that night, more than 181,000 people were experiencing homelessness in California, a rate of 46.5 per 10,000 people, per HUD.

  • That's up from 151,278 per 10,000 people in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of note: California accounts for 28% of all people experiencing homelessness in the country, and 49% of all unsheltered people in the U.S., per the report.

  • Unsheltered homelessness is defined as those in places not meant for human habitation, as opposed to emergency shelters, transitional housing or safe haven programs.
  • The state also leads in youth homelessness, accounting for 20% of unaccompanied youth in the country.

Zoom in: San Diego County saw a record high 10,264 homeless people that night, a 22% spike from last year, several news outlets reported last June.

  • That includes 5,171 living outdoors or in vehicles, a 26% increase.

The bottom line: The homelessness crisis is worsening locally and nationwide.

  • City leaders are working to address it with controversial tactics including a camping ban, while pushing for more safe sleeping sites, shelters and hotel housing.

Go deeper: Homelessness in the U.S. jumped to record levels in 2023.

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