Places with the most homelessness

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November 6, 2018
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Places with the most homelessness

It's an unfortunate truth: the United States has a homelessness problem. According to HomeAid America, each year approximately 3.5 million people are homeless, with children comprising about 1 million of that total.

Homelessness can occur for a multitude of reasons. Contrary to stigmas that belittle those affected, many people are unable to find work or suffer from extraneous circumstances, such as hardship from an expensive divorce leaving them without a home. Others may have just been down on their luck and simply ran out of resources.

Stacker used 2017 data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to determine this list. The data collected includes cities and their surrounding geographical areas. These are the top 50 U.S. cities with the highest rates of homelessness.

RELATED: How many children live in poverty in your state?

#50. Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, OH

Total homeless in 2017: 1,727

Cleveland and Cuyahoga County’s homeless population dates back to when the area first became a large industrial center in the 19th century. Dock workers, sailors, canal, and railroad employees were all hired seasonally and often could not find employment in the winter.

#49. Fort Pierce, St. Lucie, Indian River, and Martin Counties, FL

Total homeless in 2017: 1,732

The majority of the homeless population in this metropolitan region are unsheltered families, many of whom suffered either a loss of employment or from other financial problems. As of 2014, almost 60% of the area’s homeless were living in homes just one year earlier.


#48. Indianapolis, IN

Total homeless in 2017: 1,783

Currently, a homeless family or individual in Indianapolis spends an average of 86 days in a shelter before moving on to either a new home or the streets. The city has launched a five-year program to help solve the issue. The goal is to lower that number to just 30 days.


#47. Yonkers, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, and Westchester, NY

Total homeless in 2017: 1,832

Westchester county is facing a daunting issue with homeless students, a subset whose population has risen 48% since 2011. Though the county is working to alleviate the problem, some community members say the local government isn’t doing enough. Some affordable housing apartments have sat vacant for years.


#46. Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County, CA

Total homeless in 2017: 1,860

Santa Barbara works hard to find homes for their homeless residents, but still only manages to house about 300 people per year. New initiatives may change that. The Safe Parking Program helps people transition out of living in a car and Peoples' Self-Help Housing has apartment blocks exclusively for the homeless.


#45. Long Beach, CA

Total homeless in 2017: 1,863

Other areas struggling with homelessness may want to take a cue from Long Beach, where the city cut the local homeless population by 21% in two years. The director of Long Beach’s Health and Human Services Department attributes rapid rehousing, increased veteran housing, and more Section 8 vouchers.


#44. San Bernardino City and County, CA

Total homeless in 2017: 1,866

In San Bernardino, initiatives to quell poverty are challenged by a rising homeless population. A 2018 January survey of homeless people showed an increase of 13.5% of those without a permanent residence, but the data also found an 18% decrease in those who identify as chronically homeless.


#43. Jacksonville-Duval and Clay Counties, FL

Total homeless in 2017: 1,869

Jacksonville’s downtown has been the epicenter of homelessness for the region, filled with reports of loiterers begging for money or drugs. According to experts, part of the problem in alleviating homelessness in Jacksonville is that while nonprofits are dedicated to the cause, local government and businesses are not doing much to help.


#42. Fort Worth, Arlington & Tarrant County, TX

Total homeless in 2017: 1,941

Fort Worth created a unique program to help the city’s homeless get back into a working mindset. Clean Slate pays homeless locals to clean up the city. Recently, the program was funded with more money in order to hire 15 homeless residents full-time.


#41. Fresno and Madera County, CA

Total homeless in 2017: 2,016

As the homeless population in Fresno continues to increase, the mayor has launched a new initiative to help solve the problem. Street 2 Home Fresno County is a collaboration between the city, county, and local organizations to address the issues causing homelessness on an individual basis.


#40. Austin and Travis County, TX

Total homeless in 2017: 2,036

In this emerging hub of ingenuity, residents in Austin and Travis County are finding ways to turn the page on homelessness. The city’s Innovation Office is focusing on tech-enhanced solutions to learn more about the problem and create a long-lasting resolution.


#39. Salt Lake City and County, UT

Total homeless in 2017: 2,047

Earlier in 2018, a program called Operation Rio Grande shut down a large homeless camp and displaced its entire population. Since then, an influx of homeless people now live downtown across the street from the Salt Lake City Police Department. Three new shelters are scheduled to open in 2019, which may help in providing more suitable housing.


#38. Newark and Essex County, NJ

Total homeless in 2017: 2,048

Essex County has a number of initiatives designed to support the homeless population. Recently, 25 different groups gathered for an outreach event at the Newark Public Library to provide free haircuts, food, clothes, and toiletries to those in need.


#37. Orlando, Orange, Osceola, and Seminole Counties, FL

Total homeless in 2017: 2,074

Most of Orlando’s homeless population lives downtown and panhandles on a regular basis. The city has made a few attempts to stop the practice, including banning soliciting money from cars, panhandling near ATMs, and asking for money from “captive audiences," like people waiting in line at events.


#36. Detroit, MI

Total homeless in 2017: 2,078

In 2014 and 2015, Detroit struggled to cope with a tent city on East Jefferson Avenue, a major thoroughfare. When the encampment was disbanded, the city launched new efforts to rehome those displaced. The homeless population has decreased by 20% since then.


#35. Watsonville, Santa Cruz City and County, CA

Total homeless in 2017: 2,249

In a troubling trend, Santa Cruz’s homeless population is finding difficulty staying off the streets. According to a 2017 survey, 62%of homeless people in the county had been homeless for one year or more, and 40% had been homeless more than two or three times in the previous three years.


#34. Springfield, MA

Total homeless in 2017: 2,311

Springfield has the second-largest homeless population in its state, trailing Boston. But in this western Massachusetts locale, the issue is particularly troublesome among families. Springfield has the second-largest number of homeless children in the nation.


#33. Nashville and Davidson County, TN

Total homeless in 2017: 2,337

Although the homelessness is decreasing as Nashville becomes more affluent, the disparity between the wealthy and the poor is growing. In order to help fix the problem, experts say Nashville needs to create 31,000 affordable rental units by 2025.


#32. Riverside City and County, CA

Total homeless in 2017: 2,406

For two years in a row, the number of homeless people in Riverside County has increased. Part of the problem is that the increasing cost of housing is pricing out many low-income renters looking for a place to live.


#31. Ft Lauderdale and Broward County, FL

Total homeless in 2017: 2,450

Around 400 homeless people in Broward County are considered chronically homeless, with about 150 of that total hesitant to accept assistance with housing, often due to substance abuse problems. But a new plan may help by allowing people who are high or drunk into shelters, as long as they don't bring in drugs or alcohol, and abstain from violence.


#30. Pasco County, FL

Total homeless in 2017: 2,593

Around 100 homeless camps exist around Pasco County, according to the local police department’s most recent count. To combat this high number, an old Boys & Girls Club building is being turned into a new homeless shelter and training center, to help teach financial planning and find jobs for people needing a place to live.


#29. Baltimore, MD

Total homeless in 2017: 2,669

In January 2018, officials in Baltimore cleared a homeless camp under the Interstate 83 overpass on Guilford Avenue, moving the affected into new temporary housing. Now, a new program from Volunteers of America Chesapeake, called Bridge Housing, is helping the city’s homeless population move into apartments decked out with all the living essentials they need, from brooms to dish soap.


#28. San Antonio and Bexar County, TX

Total homeless in 2017: 2,743

The majority of people without homes in Bexar County head to downtown San Antonio to try and eke out a life, but others cluster into camps within the city limits and in neighborhoods further out. Many of the homeless are youths; since 2017, the number of homeless people aged 18 to 24 grew by 59%.


#27. St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Largo, and Pinellas County, FL

Total homeless in 2017: 2,831

Bartlett Park in St. Petersburg has become an unexpected haven for the county’s homeless, who relocated there after the removal of bus shelters at nearby Williams Park. Now locals say what used to be a idyllic place to walk has become a blemish on the community, with families disturbed by homeless residents bathing in the park’s lake.


#26. Santa Rosa, Petaluma, and Sonoma County, CA

Total homeless in 2017: 2,835

The homeless population in Santa Rosa is consistently being shuttled around the city. To stabilize the problem, a new landlord incentive program was recently funded to encourage property owners to rent to the homeless.


#25. Minneapolis and Hennepin County, MN

Total homeless in 2017: 3,057

Just south of downtown Minneapolis, there’s a sprawling homeless camp housing as many as 300 people. It’s called the “Wall of Forgotten Natives," and officials believe it’s the largest homeless camp ever in the city.


#24. Salinas, Monterey and San Benito Counties, CA

Total homeless in 2017: 3,364

Monterey County’s homeless population is steadily increasing. From 2015 to 2017, Del Rey Oaks saw a 102% jump in homelessness and the population of homeless in Salinas grew by 57% over the same period.


#23. Atlanta, GA

Total homeless in 2017: 3,572

Officials in Atlanta have counted the homeless population every year since 2009. Since 2013, the number has noticeably decreased, down 44%, mostly thanks to the Homeless Outreach and Proactive Engagement program at the Georgia State University Police Department.


#22. Houston, Harris, Ft. Bend and Montgomery Counties, TX

Total homeless in 2017: 3,605

Houston’s Midtown and Museum Park neighborhoods are facing an increase in crime thanks to a homeless encampment under Interstate 59. Since the middle of 2017, four murders have been traced back to the camp.


#21. Sacramento City and County, CA

Total homeless in 2017: 3,665

Complicating Sacramento's daunting homeless situation is a staggering problem with homeless deaths. As of 2017, one homeless person in the city dies every three days. That has led to city officials instituting the hiring of street nurses.


#20. Miami and Dade County, FL

Total homeless in 2017: 3,721

In 1998, a legal agreement in Miami gave the homeless population protection from police harassment. But now, city officials want to undo the agreement, maintaining that harassment from law enforcement will no longer be an issue.


#19. Dallas City and County, and Irving, TX

Total homeless in 2017: 3,789

The unsheltered homeless population in Dallas has increased 23% since 2017. As part of a drive to resolve the issue, the city introduced a multi-pronged approach that includes utilizing popular recreation centers as temporary shelters.


#18. Nassau and Suffolk County, NY

Total homeless in 2017: 3,937

In 2017, Nassau and Suffolk saw a slight decrease in its homeless population, but the amount of people living in shelters increased by 22%. Nearly half of those living in the shelters are children.


#17. Portland, Gresham, and Multnomah County, OR

Total homeless in 2017: 4,177

At one point, Multnomah County had a no-turn-away policy, meaning that every homeless person coming into a shelter would be guaranteed a bed. But that plan backfired, as more people than expected showed up, including those from surrounding cities and states.


#16. Santa Ana, Anaheim, and Orange County, CA

Total homeless in 2017: 4,792

More than 700 homeless people once lived in an encampment at the Santa Ana River Trail. The police cleared it and the residents were gifted 30-day stays at local motels, paid for by the county. But that solution was only temporary as homeless camps remain persistent in the area and consistently return after being cleared.


#15. Honolulu, HI

Total homeless in 2017: 4,959

In 2015, Gov. David Ige declared a state of emergency to fix his state’s homeless problem, worried about effects on the tourism-based economy. Though the numbers of visible homeless have drastically decreased, many homeless people have gone into hiding throughout the city, reportedly afraid of being harassed by the police.


#14. Denver, CO

Total homeless in 2017: 5,506

In 2016, the Mile High City launched a unique initiative to boost the city's homeless prevention services, which combines funding from private lenders and philanthropic foundations. The Denver Social Impact Bond aims to provide housing and supportive case management services that reduce the taxpayer burden of jailing and medical services.

#13. Phoenix, Mesa, and Maricopa County Regional, AZ

Total homeless in 2017: 5,605

Sixty-one percent of Arizona’s population lives in Maricopa County and so does 71% of the state’s homeless population. Thirty-seven percent of those homeless are actually families, often a solo mother with a child.


#12. Oakland and Alameda County, CA

Total homeless in 2017: 5,629

As part of Oakland’s initiatives to fight homelessness, the mayor launched a program to create prefab TuffShed camps, where a multitude of homeless people can be served at once. The goal was to shut down a myriad of other homeless camps and enforce “no encampment zones."


#11. Chicago, IL

Total homeless in 2017: 5,657

In June, a homeless encampment known as "The Triangle," near Wabash Avenue and Lower Wacker Drive, was disbanded by police. The dispersal, in advance of the annual homeless survey, revealed information about the population. For example, men frequently live unsheltered while most sheltered homeless are women. In addition, the sheltered are generally middle-age adults and the unsheltered are generally younger, and more than 75% of Chicago's homeless are African-American.


#10. Philadelphia, PA

Total homeless in 2017: 5,693

Though Philadelphia has a large homeless population, the city does have the lowest amount of unsheltered homeless, per capita, of all major U.S. cities. City officials are now working on initiatives to reduce the population by 5% annually for each of the next five years.


#9. Boston, MA

Total homeless in 2017: 6,135

Since 2016, the amount of chronically homeless people in Boston has decreased by 20%, even as figures nationally are on the rise. Part of the solution for Boston is technology based; a computer system not only tracks where a homeless person has been sleeping, but also matches them with available housing.


#8. Las Vegas & Clark County, NV

Total homeless in 2017: 6,490

To combat its large homeless population, the city of Las Vegas recently opened the Courtyard, designed to give those in need a safe place to sleep. The Courtyard also offers bathrooms and showers, employment assistance, and health and mental services.


#7. San Francisco, CA

Total homeless in 2017: 6,858

Up until January 2017, San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood was notorious for its “box city" homeless encampment. Now, the area has been cleaned up and 30 other large encampments have been cleared, with many of the former residents heading to local shelters.


#6. San Jose, Santa Clara City, and County, CA

Total homeless in 2017: 7,394

By October of next year, San Jose will open its first housing project devoted specifically to getting the homeless off the streets. Villas on the Park will house 83 people, a development close to St. James Park, where the homeless have long gathered.


#5. Washington, DC

Total homeless in 2017: 7,473

Recently, Washington D.C.’s mayor abruptly closed DC General, a former hospital-turned-homeless shelter that was housing about 260 families per night. The shelter was plagued with problems: mold, rats, safety concerns, even the abduction of a child. Several smaller shelters are planned to take in the newly displaced families.


#4. San Diego City and County, CA

Total homeless in 2017: 9,160

The homeless population in San Diego is on the rise, increasing by 205 people since June. The city has opened three large tent shelters that house about 700 people and will keep them open until at least June 2019.


#3. Seattle and King County, WA

Total homeless in 2017: 11,643

A homeless population was documented in Seattle as early as 1904, referencing a “Shacktown" west of the city’s Pioneer Square. To help remedy the ongoing issue, Seattle recently increased shelter capacity and is working on building a small village in the South Lake Union neighborhood to house the homeless.


#2. Los Angeles City and County, CA

Total homeless in 2017: 55,188

Skid Row, the iconic bleak stretch of homeless camps in Los Angeles, still houses more than 2,000 people. Several groups have stepped in to help, like Hippie Kitchen, run by Catholic Charities, which helps feed and care for the homeless. The People Concern, a social services program, attempts to rehouse Skid Row residents.


#1. New York City , NY

Total homeless in 2017: 76,501

New York City is currently facing the highest levels of homelessness since the Great Depression. Three-quarters of the homeless shelter population are families. New studies show that the majority of the homeless living on the streets are suffering from mental illness or health problems.


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