Home / Economy / Articles / Which states have the highest and lowest rates of homelessness?

About 653,000 Americans experienced homelessness in January 2023 according to Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) point-in-time data, which measures homelessness across the US on a single night each winter. That’s a 12.1% increase from the same report in 2022.

The national rate of Americans experiencing homelessness in 2023 was approximately 19.4 people per 10,000. Mississippi had the lowest rate of homelessness, at 3.3 people per 10,000, while in other states — namely New York and Vermont — the rate jumps to more than 50 per 10,000. Washington, DC, comprised entirely of a single city, had rates higher than any state, 72.5 per 10,000.

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In terms of raw numbers, California had the highest number of people experiencing homelessness of any state: 181,399. New York had the nation’s second-most with 103,200, followed by Florida with 30,756.

Homelessness isn’t a particularly urban or rural issue. Vermont is the nation’s most rural state — as of 2020, 65% of its population lived in rural areas — and had one of the highest rates of homelessness. California and Nevada are the states with the highest percentages of inhabitants in urban areas, and their homelessness rates were also in the top 10.

Homelessness also always doesn't look the same; 4% of Vermont’s unhoused population were unsheltered, compared to 68% of Californians experiencing homelessness.

Where have homelessness rates changed the most? 

From 2018 to 2023, homelessness in Vermont increased from 20.6 per 10,000 people to 50.9, the biggest increase in any state. California, Oregon, and Maine saw increases of more than 10 people per 10,000.

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Connecticut, Hawaii, and Maryland had the largest decreases in their homelessness rates, though those decreases were comparably modest — each had two to three fewer homeless people per 10,000 residents.

Why do some states have higher rates of homelessness?

According to a 2020 Government Accountability Office report, rent prices can play a role in homelessness rates. California, Washington, DC, and Hawaii had the nation’s highest rents in 2022 and among the highest rates of homelessness in 2023; all three were in the top 10 nationally. West Virginia and Mississippi had among the country’s lowest rents, and lower homelessness rates.

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These figures are likely also affected by difficulties counting the homeless population. Rural states and states with lots of unsheltered homeless people face unique challenges in estimating their homeless populations.

Read more about difficulties counting homeless populations, learn about standard of living in the US, and get the facts every week by signing up for our newsletter.

2023 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress
Last updated
December 2023