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About 653,104 Americans were experiencing homelessness in January 2023, according to Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) data.

HUD divides the US into 381 Continuums of Care (CoC), which are responsible for coordinating homelessness services in their area. These regions can be a city, a city and county (such as Spokane County in Washington, which includes the city of Spokane), or a group of rural areas. In 2023, 49 CoCs included major cities, 58 were largely urban but without a major city, 165 were largely suburban, and 109 were largely rural. About 53% of the nation’s homeless people lived in the CoCs containing the 50 biggest cities.

Which cities had the largest homeless populations in 2023?

Out of the CoCs containing the 50 largest cities in the US, the largest homeless populations were in the CoCs containing New York (88,025) and Los Angeles (71,320), which were also the largest cities by total population.

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The populations represented by each CoC depend on the specific areas they cover, and CoC population data is not directly available through government agencies. New York City CoC, for example, represents the five boroughs of New York City, which in 2022 had a population of 8.3 million people. Los Angeles City and County CoC includes 85 of the 88 cities in Los Angeles County (all except Long Beach, Pasadena, and Glendale). Together, these areas had a population of approximately 8.9 million people in 2022. Based on these figures, the New York City CoC had 106 homeless people per 10,000 residents, and Los Angeles City and County CoC had 78.

In 2023, 46 of the 49 major-city CoCs identified at least 1,000 homeless individuals each.

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However, people experience homelessness differently in each location. For example, 27% of LA’s homeless population was sheltered, meaning people were living in an emergency shelter, transitional housing, or safe haven program. In New York, this figure was 95%.

The five CoCs with the highest proportion of unsheltered homeless people were in California: San Jose/Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Oakland/Berkeley, Long Beach, and Sacramento. Boston, New York City, and Baltimore had the highest proportion of sheltered homeless people, each over 93%.

Given that homelessness counts occur during January, cities with colder climates tend to have higher proportions of sheltered people.

How has homelessness changed in recent years?

HUD’s overall estimates of people experiencing homelessness increased by less than one percent from 2020 to 2022 but rose 12.1% from 2022 to 2023. The 653,104 people estimated to have been experiencing homelessness in 2023 were the most in any year since the point-in-time counts began in 2007.

Fewer people stayed in shelters from 2020 to 2022, likely due to reduced pandemic capacity. By 2023, many of those shelters had returned to full capacity.

While the number of unsheltered homeless people rose by 9.7% from 2022 to 2023, the number in shelters increased by 13.7%. In January 2023, 60.7% of homeless Americans lived in shelters.

Despite these shifts, the ranking of cities with the highest numbers of homeless people has largely remained consistent with pre-pandemic levels.

How was this data collected?

Communities count sheltered and unsheltered homeless people separately.

Sheltered people are counted based on information from homeless services such as emergency shelters and transitional housing.

Every January, each locality conducts a point-in-time count of unsheltered people (an unduplicated count on a single night of the homeless people in a locality). Every locality conducts its point-in-time count differently, but most cities make estimates based on a random sample of locations where homeless people are known to congregate. In 2023, all but seven of the participating CoCs executed their counts in late January.

Learn more about standard of living in the US, the limitations of data collection on homelessness, homelessness rates by state, and get the facts every week by signing up for our newsletter.

2022 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress
Last updated
February 2023