Homeless Population By State In The US For 2021

These states have the most homeless per capita in all of the USA.

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Every day in the US, on average, 55 people become homeless.

For some, it’s a choice. For many, it is not.

While we had seen a decrease for a number of years, the homeless rate in the United States is going up again, and in many states, it’s exploding. If the homeless rate continued at the rate we’ve seen over the last few years, by the year 20,949 the whole US population will be living on the streets.

Okay that’s not going to happen. Although the pandemic and, the rising cost of living, and a spike in drug use has many worried we’re going to see a spike in homeless folks in the coming years.

Now, the homeless issue is a very controversial one. The root of the problem is very complex, and politicians have been baffled as to how to solve it. We’ll talk about that. And, you’re going to find Americans view homelessness from two entirely different camps. Some of us feel bad for the homeless, and put the blame on our government. Some of us blame the homeless for their own decisions. We’ll talk about that, too.

However you feel about homelessness, it’s a very complex problem, and one that shouldn’t exist in the richest country in the world. There isn’t one answer because there isn’t just one problem.

Here are the 10 states with the largest homeless population in the US for {year}.

States With The Largest Homeless Population Per Capita In The US

  1. New York
  2. Hawaii
  3. California
  4. Oregon
  5. Washington
  6. Massachusetts
  7. Alaska
  8. Nevada
  9. Vermont
  10. Colorado

States With The Smallest Homeless Population Per Capita In The US

  1. Mississippi
  2. Louisiana
  3. Alabama
  4. Virginia
  5. North Dakota
  6. Iowa
  7. West Virginia
  8. Wisconsin
  9. Illinois
  10. Kansas

In this article, we’ll go over the which states have the most homeless people.

Some might be surprising to you. Many will not. But I think we’ll all agree that it’s, unfortunately, out of control. Every night, there are hundreds of thousands of us who are living in tents or in their cars or in hotel rooms, where it is not peaceful and quiet or safe. If you drive around YOUR city every day, you’ll see them yourself.

Let’s see which parts of the country are in the middle of a homeless crisis.

For more reading, check out:

Most homeless States In The US Map

The 10 Most Homeless States In America

1. New York

New-York|Ny, NY

Population: 19,572,319
Homeless Population: 92,091
Homeless Per Capita: 0.0047
More On New York: Biggest Cities | Photos | Average Rent

But you know who ISN’T investing in housing its residents? New York isn’t.

At least, New York CITY isn’t. They actually get caught schlepping their homeless across the river in New Jersey. New Jersey people apparently don’t like that very much. The state of New York pays for a year of rent in another state, as long as you don’t come back. Apparently, it is cheaper to move them into New Jersey than it is to keep them within their own city limits.

It’s nothing unique to New York City though. Lots of cities do this.

Anyways, there’s somewhere around 92,091 homeless in the state of New York, and around 80,000 in New York City alone, even though the mayor Bill DeBlasio says it’s far less than that.

All in all, about 1 in 5 homeless people in the country are either in Los Angeles or New York City alone.

New York will try and house folks who need help and the state’s homeless budget is about $4 billion annually, and most of that is spent in New York City alone. This is interesting: New York City homeless Shelters apparently charge whatever the heck they want. That’s ruffling some feathers, since you know, the budget has limits.

New York City proper is a very expensive place to live, and there’s definitely a lack of affordable housing here.

2. Hawaii

Hawaii|Hi, HI

Source: Public domain

Population: 1,422,094
Homeless Population: 6,412
Homeless Per Capita: 0.0045
More On Hawaii: Biggest Cities | Photos | Average Rent

Hawaii has close to the highest cost of living of all US states, so the homeless problem there is definitely related to a lack of affordable housing. And it can be a lot more difficult to move because you’re stuck on an island.

The good news – if there is any good news in this depressing video, is that homelessness in Hawaii is actually going down. This state is no longer number one per capita for homeless.

But as it stands, there’s still about 6,412 people on these islands, which is a lot, considering the small population here.

What is Hawaii doing right? Spending money to save money. A program called Housing First provides free housing for homeless people, and costs about $25,000 a year per person. However, the state saves money on healthcare and locking people up when they give them a home. So housing Hawaiians is an investment.

But the budget only goes so far. And, the state admits the biggest problem is still funding for drug rehab and mental illness treatment.

3. California

California|Ca, CA

Population: 39,283,497
Homeless Population: 151,278
Homeless Per Capita: 0.0039
More On California: Biggest Cities | Photos | Average Rent

You might have expected California would have the most homeless people, and you’d be right, but per capita, it’s only third. No one knows how many homeless there are in this state. This was filmed in Los Angeles this past October, where it’s estimated there are 40,000 homeless people in this city alone. It’s probably way higher than that. What was once just skid row has blossomed into skid city.

There’s a lot of movie stars in LA. I haven’t heard of them helping the problem. Many say LA manufactures its own homeless problem due to a lack of affordable places to live, and I’m sure that’s correct. However, the addicted and the mentally unstable I am showing here do not seem to be victims of a housing shortage.

The state as a whole has seen a 16% increase in homeless rates over the last decade. They think there’s 151,278 homeless people here, but it’s likely much higher than that.

San Francisco’s also terrible. It’s the city without pity. You walk around San Francisco and step over people sleeping on the sidewalks all the time. They’ve taken over much of downtown now and the city panders to them – putting them up in rooms and handing out drugs, cigarettes and booze to keep them under control emotionally. They seem to have more rights than the average working person. The homeless were given a higher priority for covid vaccines than most California residents were. Can you believe that?

When it rains, they sleep on the midnight special buses all night. But when it rains that means all the poop and needles go down the drain so that’s good.

No wonder California has the most people moving out when you see how its twin cities look these days.

4. Oregon

Oregon|Or, OR

Source: Public domain

Population: 4,129,803
Homeless Population: 15,876
Homeless Per Capita: 0.0038
More On Oregon: Biggest Cities | Photos | Average Rent

While the national homeless rate has gone down a bit over the last ten year, Oregon’s has risen by 14% and seems to be going up all the time. Portland and Eugene have the most homeless here, and both rank towards the top nationally.

Lots of people complain that the state of Oregon caters to the homeless, which is why more and more of them are showing up.

5. Washington

Washington|Wa, WA

Population: 7,404,107
Homeless Population: 21,577
Homeless Per Capita: 0.0029
More On Washington: Biggest Cities | Photos | Average Rent

Okay so Seattle is just a mess. As you’ve heard, the homeless problem here is beyond a crisis and getting worse by the week. What was once a beautiful city has been taken over by drug addicts, the mentally unstable and the lifestyle street people. But there’s a lot of other people in this state who are NOT just those you see in Seattle. There’s about 21,577 homeless people in Washington state at the time of this writing, but again, no one knows the true number.

The state has talked about taxing businesses up to $120 million a year to help fund homeless relief programs and help pay for affordable housing. That scared a LOT of people, and if you haven’t heard, lots of companies AND residents have been leaving Seattle.

How much of the problem in places like Seattle is because of the cost of living and how much is the lifestyle? Sure, getting a place in Seattle is out of reach for a lot of people, but they can relocate, right? If you get priced out of your house, there’s plenty of places you can move where you can afford, and agencies will help you relocate. And I over simplifying this? Like if you can’t afford to live in Seattle, why stay and live in your car? I’m not trying to be insensitive, I just don’t understand.

The cost of living in places like Seattle is a very complicated issue. Sometimes, it’s greedy landlords that add fire to the problem of affordable housing. We’ll talk about that when we get to New York. But regulations make it hard for developers to build affordable housing, or to justify their construction. This guy says he’s a landlord and a developer and the fees that the government charges makes it hard to justify building affordable units on land he owns, even though he would LOVE to do it.

6. Massachusetts

Massachusetts|Ma, MA

Source: Public domain

Population: 6,850,553
Homeless Population: 18,471
Homeless Per Capita: 0.0027
More On Massachusetts: Biggest Cities | Photos | Average Rent

There’s about 18,471 people in Massachusetts who are homeless on any given night these days. And, it’s estimated the number of families who are homeless here has increased at the highest rate of any other state. Overall, as a state, it’s up by 20% over the last decade. This is really the only real right to shelter state in the country, though New York has similar laws. Basically, it means if you don’t have anywhere to live, the state will put you or in a hotel room for up to a year – and help you transition to permanent housing, though the wait for that is like 10 years.

Of course, hopefully within 10 years, folks are able to get back on their feet, but some will never do so. It’s SUPER complicated. Many homeless people who recently lost their jobs and had other setbacks will sleep in motels or in their cars or other vehicles, often moving around until they can get back on their feet again.

But those who are openly living on the streets like this are not that group, for the most part.

Some Americans insist the people you see on the streets choose to live like this because in the shelters, they have to follow rules. There’s places that will take them in, for free, and help them get back on their feet. Some say no one with a healthy state of mind would choose to live like this. For many of these street dwellers, it’s addiction and mental illness.

7. Alaska

Alaska|Ak, AK

Population: 737,068
Homeless Population: 1,907
Homeless Per Capita: 0.0026
More On Alaska: Biggest Cities | Photos | Average Rent

Alaska, believe it or not, ranks seventh in terms of homeless rate per capita. It’s obviously very cold here, but 18% of Alaskans who are homeless live unsheltered. Some people here will commit petty crimes to get thrown in jail intentionally so they are warm. They they get out and do it all over again.

The cost of living here is really high – this state ranks as the 9th most expensive when you factor in the cost for a roof over your head.

But more than the cost of living is the culture here in Alaska. Anchorage has what local leaders call a crisis, as people wander around on streets, couch surf or battle bed bugs or crime at local fleabag motels. There’s a bid drug and alcohol problem in Alaska, and sheer number of domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault rates are all super high in Alaska, which means people are in transition a lot more often here.

Alaska has doubled its homeless assistance program to $8 million a year, or $8,000 per homeless person, per year. As a nation, we spend about $3 billion annually on homeless assistance at the federal. To put that into perspective, we gave Afghanistan nearly $5 billion last year. And this is just the tip of our foreign spending iceberg. As you can imagine, we give away tons of money to other countries while our own citizens live like this.

8. Nevada

Nevada|Nv, NV

Population: 2,972,382
Homeless Population: 7,169
Homeless Per Capita: 0.0024
More On Nevada: Biggest Cities | Photos | Average Rent

Now, Nevada is another state that saw marijuana legalized, and it has had an impact on the state’s homeless population. It’s estimated there are fewer homeless people in Nevada than in Colorado, but the population here is far smaller than in Colorado, so the per capita number is higher. About 7,169 people in Nevada were homeless last year, but in the greater Las Vegas metro area, more than 13,000 people experienced homelessness at some point.

There’s a lot of people who live homeless in the city of Las Vegas who are likely never going to be counted.

Of course, drugs, booze and gambling are a big draw to Vegas, which boosts the homeless numbers significantly. But it’s also pretty warm here year round, and as we’ll see, the warmer the climate, the more people are willing to sleep on the streets. Other states like Arizona and New Mexico have a large homeless problem, and they’re just outside of the top 10.

But warm weather doesn’t necessarily mean homeless. That’s because the states with the least number of homeless are the deep south. Mississippi has the least number of homeless people per capita, followed by Louisiana and Alabama, and those are some of our warmest states. Why is that? Two reasons primarily – far less people in the deep south live in urbanized areas. But the cost of living down in the deep south is really low. This chart shows Mississippi residents can comfortably rent a house on about $3,500 a month combined monthly income. But in California, a family needs to earn about $8,300 a month to comfortably rent a house.

A HUGE difference.

9. Vermont

Vermont|Vt, VT

Population: 624,313
Homeless Population: 1,089
Homeless Per Capita: 0.0017
More On Vermont: Biggest Cities | Photos

Vermont is a unique situation. The homeless rate here had been declining, but is on the rise once again. There are far fewer homeless here than in other states we’ll talk about, but it’s a small state, too. It’s estimated that there are 0.0017 homeless people for every 10,000 residents.

It’s much colder here than it is out west, but, still, 10% of the homeless in Vermont live on the streets every night. That’s far LOWER than out west, where it’s estimated 1 in 3 homeless people live outdoors.

Vermont ranks highly in the nation for welfare spending per capita, and many residents here complain about high taxes and a high cost of living. However, all that tax money isn’t enough to keep up with trying to assist the growing homeless in Vermont. The state spends $140,000 a night putting residents up in hotel rooms, and wind up spending more in fielding calls from hotel owners regarding vandalism and drug use.

Incidentally, Vermont ranks towards the top in terms of drug use and overdose rates.

10. Colorado

Colorado|Co, CO

Population: 5,610,349
Homeless Population: 9,619
Homeless Per Capita: 0.0017
More On Colorado: Biggest Cities | Photos | Average Rent

Next is the state of Colorado. People in Denver can attest to a rise in homelessness here. Over the past few years, there’s been a noticeable spike in the number of people living in the streets – in parts of Denver that were once clean and safe.

The state of Colorado estimates that on any given night, there are about 9,619 people living without shelter here, but that number is really hard to measure. For one, there are lots of people living in areas that you’ll never see. And, often, there are families who are living in hotel rooms or in their cars who don’t want to be counted. So, it’s likely this number is much higher. In fact, another report says the Denver metro area alone saw more than 30,000 people who had accessed homeless resources last year. Again, there is no real way of getting an exact count, but it is estimated Colorado has seen an 8% rise in homelessness in the last decade.

However, it’s estimated that about a quarter of the homeless population in Colorado is chronically homeless. Like, they’ve been living on the streets for years now, and will likely continue to do so. For many, it’s a lifestyle of choice. Despite how you feel about the cost of living or the lack of resources for the chronically homeless, it is true that a large part of the homeless population simply wants to live a life like this.

In Colorado, one big reason for the surge has been legal marijuana. The state saw a surge in its population since marijuana became legal.

How We Determined The Most Homeless States Per Capita

To create our list of the homeless population by state in America, we first used the Point in Time Estimate from HUD. For each state excluding DC, we looked at the homeless population per capita.

We then ranked each state from one to 50, with the lowest number having the largest homeless population.

Pretty straightforward.

Wrapping Up A Take On The Most Homeless States

Now we talked about greedy landlords earlier, and how complex the affordable housing problem is. Rent control is supposed to provide affordable housing, but only for people who are ACTUALLY IN the building to begin with. Someone moves out and you can charge whatever you want. So landlords in New York City are incentivized to have you move out, and then leave units vacant until someone comes along and can pay a lot of money. So there’s a housing shortage.

Another problem with rent control in some cities like San Francisco is building owners will turn their apartment buildings into condos or retail or just knock them down because rent control made running the building unprofitable.

And gentrification has definitely made living in large urban areas less feasible for poor folks. But again, the question arises – why don’t people who can’t afford to live here just leave? Well, the New York Times posed that question too – and noted that often people DO leave. But the thing that keeps people around, in big cities they cannot and will not ever be able to afford – are social connections and support from friends and family.

So the problem of homelessness is very complicated. Part of the problem is politics – setting aside money or creating laws to help folks with housing, without upsetting the people who work and pay the taxes and the businesses in the area. Addressing addiction and mental illness is another thorn we have yet to solve. But, we have to admit, there is a large percentage of the homeless in this country that does not want help nor do they want a roof over their heads.

Anyways, that’s our look at the states with the most homeless people per capita. It’s a big mess. Some states have unique approaches, and others seem to be making the problem worse by encouraging it or at least not making it hard for people to live on their streets.

Do you have an idea on how we can fix this mess? We can’t just build a free house for anyone who wants one. Cause then no one would work.


For more reading, check out:

Homeless Population Per Capita By State In The US

Rank State Homeless Per Capita
1 New York 0.0047
2 Hawaii 0.0045
3 California 0.0039
4 Oregon 0.0038
5 Washington 0.0029
6 Massachusetts 0.0027
7 Alaska 0.0026
8 Nevada 0.0024
9 Vermont 0.0017
10 Colorado 0.0017
11 Maine 0.0016
12 New Mexico 0.0015
13 Minnesota 0.0014
14 Arizona 0.0014
15 Florida 0.0014
16 Idaho 0.0013
17 Montana 0.0013
18 Nebraska 0.0012
19 South Dakota 0.0011
20 Tennessee 0.0011
21 Maryland 0.0011
22 New Hampshire 0.001
23 Pennsylvania 0.001
24 Missouri 0.001
25 Georgia 0.001
26 Oklahoma 0.001
27 New Jersey 0.001
28 Rhode Island 0.001
29 Delaware 0.001
30 Wyoming 0.0009
31 Kentucky 0.0009
32 Texas 0.0009
33 North Carolina 0.0009
34 Arkansas 0.0009
35 Utah 0.0009
36 Ohio 0.0009
37 Michigan 0.0009
38 Connecticut 0.0008
39 South Carolina 0.0008
40 Indiana 0.0008
41 Kansas 0.0008
42 Illinois 0.0008
43 Wisconsin 0.0008
44 West Virginia 0.0008
45 Iowa 0.0007
46 North Dakota 0.0007
47 Virginia 0.0007
48 Alabama 0.0007
49 Louisiana 0.0006
50 Mississippi 0.0004

About Nick Johnson

Nick Johnson earned his masters in Business Administration from the Drucker School At Claremont Graduate University. He has written for 39 publications across the country and ran the media relations department at Movoto, a real estate portal based in San Francisco. He has been featured in over 500 publications as an expert in real estate and as an authority on real estate trends. .

Nick's the creator of the HomeSnacks YouTube channel that now has over 260,000 subscribers and is an excellent source to learn about different parts of the country.