Each January, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) performs a count of the nation’s homeless population, where the homeless in shelters and on the street are counted individually. As of 2020, the estimated homeless population was around 580,466 people, a decrease from 647,258 people in 2007. However, critics of this method argue that the homeless population is in fact much larger, as some homeless people may be couch-surfing, staying with friends or family, or sleeping in hotels or motels, with these individuals comprising the nation’s “invisible” homeless population. The majority of homeless people are male and white, with about 161,500 living in California.
The homeless population in the United StatesThe plight of homeless veterans in the U.S. often draws the attention of the media, with many saying that the Department of Veterans Affairs does not do enough to prevent veterans from becoming homeless. An estimated 90.9 percent of homeless veterans are male, and in 2020, 22,048 were living in homeless shelters. There are several reasons why a U.S. veteran could end up homeless, including lack of affordable housing, struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or even substance abuse problems.
Homeless youth present another problem in the United States. In 2020, there were an estimated 34,210 unaccompanied homeless people under the age of 25 living on the street in the U.S. 97 percent of the homeless youth in Marin County in California lived outside of homeless shelters. While homeless youth are still predominantly male, the share of transgender and gender non-conforming homeless youth is more than double the national transgender and gender non-conforming homeless population.
Special attention should also be paid to the number of homeless students in the U.S. during the academic year 2017-18. Rather than being counted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, this number is calculated by the Department of Education, based on reports from teachers and schools. During the academic year of 2017-18, there were an estimated 263,058 homeless students living in California, many of whom live with their parents in hotels, motels, cars, or with family or friends, placing them firmly in the “invisible” homeless population.