The State of Homelessness in America 2015: Looking at the Big Picture

If you’re a leader of a Continuum of Care (CoC), you likely know how many people are homeless and how many beds for homeless people there are in your community. If you’re a homelessness service provider, I bet you have a pretty good idea of how many people you serve in your program, and how these numbers have changed over the past few years. And if you’re a concerned citizen, I’m sure you are aware when you see an unsheltered homeless person sleeping on the street or in the park.

Each of these experiences is a small part of the larger picture of homelessness in a state and in America. So when we add it all up, what trends do we see?

I’ll spend the next several weeks answering this question in a series of blog posts and one-pagers about our recent report, "The State of Homelessness in America 2015." The report, released last week, is the fifth in a series of annual reports by the Alliance’s Homelessness Research Institute that examines national and state progress toward ending homelessness. This week, we’ll start by focusing on trends in overall homelessness.

From 2013 to 2014, homelessness in America declined by 2.3 percent. And—even better—since 2007, which is when the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) started collecting national data on homelessness, homelessness has fallen by over 11 percent, from 651,142 people in 2007 to 578,424 people in 2014. You can see this trend in the figure below, which shows the decline in overall homelessness and homeless sub-populations since 2007.

When we break down overall homelessness by state, we see that 34 states reported decreases in homelessness from 2013 to 2014. Some states, such as Arizona, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Wyoming, reported one-year decreases over 20 percent. The map below shows increases and decreases in homelessness in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Homeless service providers, leaders, and advocates in every state should be proud of the progress that has been made. Overall homelessness has decreased substantially in the past seven years. Though we still have a long way to go in our goal of ending homelessness, the trends let us know that we’re heading in the right direction.