Data, Oh How I’ve Overlooked You! Data you may have missed in The State of Homelessness 2012

written by Pete Witte
February 28, 2012

Hello fellow homeless advocates, policy wonks, and friends of data! It’s been just over a month since the Alliance released The State of Homelessness in America 2012 and in that time the report has been picked up by numerous national and local media sources.

The report’s one-sentence take-away—that homelessness has decreased by one percent nationally from 2009 to 2011 and that this decrease is in large part explained by HPRP, a program funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—has been the main story line in many of the media articles.

While the national decrease and the reason behind the decrease in homelessness are in the headlines for a reason, I thought it’d be useful to spend some time pointing out some of the data nuggets that you may have overlooked when you paged through the report last month. (And if you haven’t taken a look at the report yet, knock yourself out.)

Today’s data nugget: Homelessness in Metro Areas.

Homelessness in America is disproportionately found at higher rates in metropolitan areas of the country. Nearly 70 percent of the homeless population lives in the 100 largest metro areas, while a comparatively smaller percentage of the general population lives in these areas (65 percent). In Appendix One of the report, overall homeless population data are provided for the 100 largest metropolitan areas for the year 2011. In addition to a look at how many people are homeless in a given metro area at a point-in-time, homelessness rates were calculated.

For this blog post, I put together a “top 20 list” of metro areas with the highest rates of homelessness. While places such as New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle are each on the short list, none are at the top.

The five metro areas with highest rates of homelessness belong to (1) Tampa, FL, (2) New Orleans, LA, (3) Fresno, CA, (4) Las Vegas, NV, and (5) Honolulu, HI. All of the top five metro areas have rates that are more than twice as high as the U.S. rate of 21 people per 10,000 in the general population.

You might be surprised to see some of the other areas that made the short list and some that are noticeably absent. One notable trend is that among the top 20 list there is not a single metro area from the Census Bureau’s Midwest region (i.e. not Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, etc.).

Take a look at the table below for a list of the 20 highest rates of homelessness. If you have any thoughts about the list or want to know more, let us know in the comments and I’ll try to respond to you as soon as I can.

Metropolitan Areas with the Highest Rates of Homelessness, 2011

Source: HRI calculations based on data from HUD and 2010 ACS 1-Year files.
Rate of Homelessness is x homeless people for every 10,000 in the general population.