In Many Major Cities, Homelessness Increased in 2015

written by Liza Doran
January 7, 2016

The start of the New Year is a time to reflect upon the progress made the year prior. One of my last blog posts focused on the decrease in national homelessness based on a single-night snapshot in January of 2015. But that was just one night. What about the homeless population throughout the rest of the year?

We won’t know whether national homelessness increased or decreased in 2015 until much later this year, but we can identify trends in several major cities across the nation from September 2014 to August 2015, thanks to a new report from The United States Conference of Mayors. The report includes information on hunger and homelessness in 19 cities around the country. While the report does not show national trends, it does give us an idea about homelessness and hunger in these major cities, including in Chicago, San Francisco, and the District of Columbia. The picture it paints is cause for alarm.

According to the report:

  • Across all cities surveyed, overall homelessness increased by an average of 1.6 percent, family homelessness decreased by an average of 5.2 percent, and individual homelessness increased by an average of 1.7 percent.
  • Across these 19 cities, emergency shelter was unavailable to an average of 25 percent of the people who needed it. The report noted that both families and individuals were turned away from shelters in the majority of these cities because no beds were available.

The city officials who were surveyed for this report said that a lack of affordable housing was the primary cause of homelessness among families with children and among individuals. Other leading causes were poverty, unemployment, low-paying jobs, and a lack of services to address mental health and substance abuse issues.

Take a look at the map below for a snapshot of the increases or decreases in total homelessness, family homelessness, and individual homelessness in the cities that reported data for the study.

It should be noted that this survey is not a representative sample of the nation as whole or of America’s cities. However, it still gives us important insight into how some of our most vulnerable citizens are faring: they are struggling. As we embark on a new year, this report shines a glaring light on critical areas of focus for 2016 and the importance of securing the appropriate funding from Congress to address homelessness.