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 2019, the estimated homeless population was around 567,715 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 151,000 living in California.
The 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 90.3 percent of homeless veterans are male, and in 2019, 14,345 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 2019, there were an estimated 17,330 unaccompanied homeless people under the age of 25 living on the street in the U.S. 95 percent of the homeless youth in San Jose and Santa Clara city and 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 2016-17. 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 2016-17, there were an estimated 246,296 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.
Sadly, many homeless people suffer from severe mental illnesses, substance abuse problems, are the victims of domestic abuse, or have HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, the homeless population is particularly susceptible to hate crimes and attacks, with 18 non-lethal and 11 lethal attacks being perpetrated on homeless individuals in 2017. Eight of the non-lethal attacks in 2017 were assault with a deadly weapon, and one case was due to police brutality.