In 2017, the United States homeless population was estimated to include 553,742 people on any given night. This number includes adults and veterans living on the streets, as well as children and families living in shelters.
Overall, homelessness in America has decreased by 13% from 2010 to 2017, but the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development believe a substantial amount of work still remains in order to eradicate the epidemic. From a nationwide standpoint, these 15 cities have the most homeless people in America. First, we’ll list the 10 major cities with the largest homeless populations, then highlight five smaller cities where homelessness is also a major problem.
10. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- 5,693 homeless people
Of the nearly 400,000 Philadelphians living below the poverty line, 5,693 are homeless. The kicker is, the city has less than 4,000 beds to house the homeless.
Misty Sparks of the Bethesda Project explains, “We don’t have enough. I don’t think anyone should ever have to sleep outside, but if every homeless individual wanted to come into shelter on a given night, we would not have enough beds.” The city is actively working to create more space for its homeless population with hopes of getting everyone off the streets.
Next: Beantown is laden with homeless — many of whom are families with children.
9. Boston, Massachusetts
- 6,135 homeless people
Believe or not, many United States citizens are only a few paychecks away from being homeless. To that end, tragedy and natural disasters can displace even the most prosperous of individuals. Massachusetts has nearly 18,000 homeless people, 6,135 of them residing in shelters and the streets of Boston. Statewide, that number has doubled since 1990, families and children accounting for over half of the state’s homeless population.
Next: The lure of promise leads to poverty in this city.
8. Las Vegas, Nevada
- 6,490 homeless people
It’s easy to imagine the root cause of the homelessness problem in Sin City. So many well-off individuals find themselves in the depths of despair after falling into the thick of their gambling addiction. Unfortunately for many, the lure of possibility ends in losing everything — family, homes — and leading them into deeper addiction and drug use. Las Vegas has a major bed shortage, leaving the homeless population to fend on the streets.
Next: Taxpayers in this city are paying to ship the homeless around the country.
7. San Francisco, California
- 6,858 homeless people
Despite the good work of homeless relocation programs, taxpayers in San Francisco (and other American cities) aren’t experiencing any real benefits from the programs. California has the largest homeless population in the United States — 134,278. The programs for relocation are created to provide hope and a better life for the homeless, yet many of them inevitably return to San Francisco, living right back on the streets they hoped to escape.
Next: Another California city topping the charts.
6. San Jose, California
- 7,394 homeless people
Let’s face it, if you’re going to be homeless, California is not a bad place to do it. But the truth is, not every person who is considered “homeless” is jobless. Some of San Jose’s homeless population are part of the working class — think teachers with children — who simply cannot afford the high price of housing. Some lost everything because of wildfires. As San Jose works to remedy its homelessness issue, the real problem is once again a lack of beds.
Next: This capital city still has a long way to go to solve its homelessness issue.
5. District of Columbia
- 7,473 homeless people
The District of Columbia has made big efforts to house its homeless population, yet the numbers have fluctuated. The city was excited to report an 11% decline in the number of people living on the streets from 2016, but the 2017 number remains higher than that of 2015. Regardless, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser recognizes that “These results show that our efforts to prevent homelessness and connect more residents to safe and affordable shelter are paying off.”
Next: A warm environment is a welcome reprieve for this city’s homeless population.
4. San Diego, California
- 9,160 homeless people
San Diego’s homeless population has been climbing for the past few years, however, its all-time high of over 10,000 people in 2010 has yet to happen again. Of this year’s 9,160, nearly half are living on the streets, not shelters. Even though the solution to this problem seems straightforward — just build more shelters — President and Chief Executive of San Diego’s Housing Authority sees it differently. Richard Gentry explains, “There’s no one solution to a problem that’s caused by a number of factors. Some just need shelter. Others need a variety of services.”
Next: This city is looking at every angle to solve its homeless crisis.
3. Seattle, Washington
- 11,643 homeless people
Housing shortages in Seattle and King County, Washington, have left almost 12,000 people homeless, living in squalor. According to the Seattle Times, if the number of homeless people doesn’t continue to climb, the county would need an annual budget increase of $410 million just to get the ball rolling on the affordable housing demands that could solve the problem. Otherwise, people will continue to live in tent cities.
Next: Taxpayers in this major city are taking a hit to help the homeless.
2. Los Angeles, California
- 55,188 homeless people
Homelessness in Los Angeles has become more and more of a crisis over the last six years, and the numbers don’t lie. Since 2012, the numbers have swelled by 75%. The problem has become so overwhelming that voters have agreed to increase taxation by $4.6 billion in order to build the housing necessary to alleviate the epidemic. As it currently stands, the city is in the bottom percentile for homeless sheltering.
Next: For the homeless, this is truly the city that never sleeps.
1. New York City, New York
- 76,501 homeless people
Of New York’s 89,503 homeless population, nearly 90 percent live in New York City. Officials are well aware of the problem, along with failed attempts to solve it. While relocation projects have assisted some individuals and families in getting back on their feet, the most recent initiative, “Project Reconnect” is hoping to remedy the problem. Project Reconnect will pay for 12 months worth of housing for any family who has been registered as homeless for at least three months and are willing to move outside the five boroughs of the city.
Next: Here are the smaller cities topping the charts for their homeless populations.
5. Santa Rosa, California
- 2,835 homeless people
It’s hard to imagine the wine country of Sonoma County has a homelessness problem, but it’s true. And the 2017 wildfires certainly didn’t help the situation. For the county’s largest city, any chance of the homeless receiving housing in Santa Rosa has never looked so barren. Of the city’s housing, the fires wiped out 5% of it, leaving already homeless individuals in a highly competitive market.
Next: A city is in need of homeless reform.
4. Salinas, California
- 3,364 homeless people
Monterey County’s city of Salinas is actively working to improve its homelessness problems. Currently, the city is working to remove the tent cities which pose major health threats due to the excessive amounts of human waste, dirty needles, blocked streets, and crime. Salinas is also working to create more housing and build a new health center.
Next: Mental health hospitals closing and the trickling of the homeless from the city has become a problem.
3. Huntington, New York
- 3,937 homeless people
Both Nassau and Suffolk counties on New York’s Long Island have seen an influx in homeless populations. Joan Noguera, Executive Director of Nassau-Suffolk Coalition for the Homeless, told the New York Times that “I’ve seen an upward trend and I am concerned about it.” Because the homeless are able to spread out more, camping in parks and on beaches, the problem is more “camouflaged.”
Next: When affluence meets homelessness
2. Santa Ana, California
- 4,792 homeless people
Homeless encampments line the Santa Ana River Trail in Santa Ana, California, and local officials are fed up. Although a lawsuit was put into action in order to remove the homeless and clean up the river trail, the problem will inevitably be moved to another area, not solved. Lawmakers and outreach services are now working to help the homeless find solutions and services.
Next: It’s not all paradise at this tropical destination.
1. Honolulu, Hawaii
- 4,959 homeless people
The uber-popular tourist and surf destination of Honolulu, Hawaii, has been combatting a serious homelessness problem for years now, and law enforcers are not letting up. In fact, police officers will ticket the homeless to keep them moving, all in an effort to make Honolulu a less appealing hub for the homeless.