Is half of the US population homeless?

Friday, June 25, 2021
By Jacob Alabab-Moser

On a given night in 2020, an estimated 580,466 people in the U.S.—about 18 of every 10,000 people—were experiencing homelessness, according to an estimate by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD defines a homeless person as someone who “lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.”

HUD gathered its latest data in January, before the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some observers think the HUD figure is an undercount, given its definition of homelessness and methodology.

Education Department data looks at how many public school students have at least temporarily experienced homelessness over a period of years. As its data necessarily excludes childless adults, it may also be an undercount. It estimates 1.3 million children experienced homelessness at some point in the time span between 2016 and 2019.

The 2020 census enumerated 331,449,281 people in the U.S.

This fact brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.
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