Homeless Population By State In The US For 2023

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

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Most homeless States In The US Map

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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. California
  2. Vermont
  3. Oregon
  4. Hawaii
  5. New York
  6. Washington
  7. Maine
  8. Alaska
  9. Nevada
  10. Delaware

States With The Smallest Homeless Population Per Capita In The US

  1. Mississippi
  2. South Carolina
  3. Illinois
  4. Alabama
  5. Virginia
  6. Iowa
  7. West Virginia
  8. North Dakota
  9. Indiana
  10. Connecticut

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:

The 10 Most Homeless States In America

1. California

California|Ca, CA

Population: 39,455,353
Homeless Population: 171,521
Homeless Per Capita: 0.0043
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 171,521 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.

2. Vermont

Vermont|Vt, VT

Population: 641,637
Homeless Population: 2,780
Homeless Per Capita: 0.0043
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 0.0043 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.

3. Oregon

Oregon|Or, OR

Source: Public domain

Population: 4,207,177
Homeless Population: 17,959
Homeless Per Capita: 0.0043
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.

4. Hawaii

Hawaii|Hi, HI

Source: Public domain

Population: 1,453,498
Homeless Population: 5,967
Homeless Per Capita: 0.0041
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 5,967 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.

5. New York

New-York|Ny, NY

Population: 20,114,745
Homeless Population: 74,178
Homeless Per Capita: 0.0037
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 74,178 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.

6. Washington

Washington|Wa, WA

Population: 7,617,364
Homeless Population: 25,211
Homeless Per Capita: 0.0033
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 25,211 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.

7. Maine

Maine|Me, ME

Population: 1,357,046
Homeless Population: 4,411
Homeless Per Capita: 0.0033
More On Maine: Biggest Cities | Photos | Average Rent

8. Alaska

Alaska|Ak, AK

Population: 735,951
Homeless Population: 2,320
Homeless Per Capita: 0.0032
More On Alaska: Biggest Cities | Photos | Average Rent

Alaska, believe it or not, ranks eighth 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.

9. Nevada

Nevada|Nv, NV

Population: 3,059,238
Homeless Population: 7,618
Homeless Per Capita: 0.0025
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 7,618 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 South Carolina and Illinois, 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.

10. Delaware

Delaware|De, DE

Source: Public domain

Population: 981,892
Homeless Population: 2,369
Homeless Per Capita: 0.0024
More On Delaware: Biggest Cities | Photos | Average Rent

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 California 0.0043
2 Vermont 0.0043
3 Oregon 0.0043
4 Hawaii 0.0041
5 New York 0.0037
6 Washington 0.0033
7 Maine 0.0033
8 Alaska 0.0032
9 Nevada 0.0025
10 Delaware 0.0024
11 Massachusetts 0.0022
12 Arizona 0.0019
13 Colorado 0.0018
14 Louisiana 0.0016
15 South Dakota 0.0016
16 Tennessee 0.0015
17 Montana 0.0015
18 Rhode Island 0.0014
19 Minnesota 0.0014
20 Florida 0.0012
21 New Mexico 0.0012
22 New Hampshire 0.0012
23 Nebraska 0.0012
24 Wyoming 0.0011
25 Idaho 0.0011
26 Utah 0.0011
27 Georgia 0.001
28 Pennsylvania 0.001
29 Missouri 0.001
30 Oklahoma 0.001
31 New Jersey 0.0009
32 Ohio 0.0009
33 North Carolina 0.0009
34 Kentucky 0.0009
35 Maryland 0.0009
36 Texas 0.0008
37 Arkansas 0.0008
38 Kansas 0.0008
39 Michigan 0.0008
40 Wisconsin 0.0008
41 Connecticut 0.0008
42 Indiana 0.0008
43 North Dakota 0.0008
44 West Virginia 0.0008
45 Iowa 0.0008
46 Virginia 0.0008
47 Alabama 0.0008
48 Illinois 0.0007
49 South Carolina 0.0007
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.