The Homeless Today

Exploring State-level Data

Note: This post is in progress.

Every year the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) releases the Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (AHAR) in two parts. Part 1 provides Point-in-Time (PIT) estimates, offering a snapshot of the homeless (both in shelters and unsheltered) during the last 10 days of January. These estimates are rolled out for Continuums of Care (CoC) – local planning bodies responsible for coordinating the full range of homelessness services in a geographic area, which may cover a city, county, metropolitan area, or an entire state. In this post I want to explore these data at two levels – the state versus sub-state.

Looking at annual trends by state/territory shows a markedly positive trend in the number of homeless in some states (California, New York, Washington, and Oregon are a few noteworthy examples). The peaks visible in some states in the 2012/2013 years (for example North Dakota and Wyoming) are likely the result of the oil boom, while Louisiana and Mississippi reflect Hurricane Katrina’s impacts.

There isn’t anything noteworthy about the distribution of Female versus Male homeless persons but I did want to document the estimates for Transgender and Gender Non-conforming individuals. This distribution, shown below for jurisdictions with at least 10 persons in either category, reflects surprisingly low numbers for many jurisdictions, and these have to be severe underestimates given what we know from the National Center for Transgender Equality:

Homelessness is also a critical issue for transgender people; one in five transgender individuals have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. Family rejection and discrimination and violence have contributed to a large number of transgender and other LGBQ-identified youth who are homeless in the United States – an estimated 20-40% of the more than 1.6 million homeless youth. Unfortunately, social service and homeless shelters that work with this population often fail to culturally and appropriately serve transgender homeless people, including denying them shelter based on their gender identity; inappropriately housing them in a gendered space they do not identify with; and failing to address co-occurring issues facing transgender homeless adults and youth. NCTE works with federal and state agencies to ensure transgender people do not face discrimination in housing and in homeless services. HUD has required grantees including homeless shelters to abide by state and local nondiscrimination rules; the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has created and promoted educational resources on serving LGBT homeless youth; and the Administration for Children and Families issued the largest-ever LGBT focused federal grant to develop a model program to support LGBT foster youth and prevent them from experiencing or returning to homelessness.

The racial distribution of the number of homeless persons generally tends to follow the relative population size of each racial group in the state. Note that Hispanics have been excluded from this depiction because they are not counted in the state totals of the overall homeless.

Age-group data are available for the under 18, 18 to 24, and over 24 brackets. The over 24 group dominates the landscsape but three jurisdictions have at least one-fourth of their homeless aged less than 18 years on average – Washington DC (28.6%), Maine (27.1%), and South Dakota (25.9%). California has the smallest percentage of under 18 year olds (0.3%).

The data for veterans show steady declines for all jurisdictions except Oregon where recent years show a slight increase.