More than half a million people in the U.S. were homeless in early January 2020, according to a U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) report published last month.

The 580,466 people counted during HUD’s annual point-in-time assessment is a 2.2% (12,751-person) rise from 2019 – an increase HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge called “very troubling” since it doesn’t factor in the impacts of the pandemic.

“Point-in-Time Counts are unduplicated one-night estimates of both sheltered and unsheltered homeless populations. The one-night counts are conducted … during the last week in January of each year,” the report explained.

Of the total number of unhoused persons, 61% spent the night in emergency shelters or transitional housing while 39% did so in unsheltered locations.

It is the fourth year in a row that the total number of unhoused persons increased, and it is the first time that there was a bigger increase in the number of unhoused people staying in unsheltered locations (up 7% from 2019 to 2020) than those who spent the night in sheltered locations (down 0.6%).

This same pattern was repeated in several subgroups.

For example, the percentage both of families with children and of military veterans staying in unsheltered locations increased from 2019 to 2020, even as the overall levels of homelessness among both groups remained steady.

Certain groups continue to be overrepresented among the unhoused.

For example, Blacks accounted for 39% of the U.S. homeless population in the 2020 count while comprising 12% of the total population, and Hispanics represent 16% of the U.S. population but made up 23% of the homeless population.

Similarly, though collectively making up 1% of the U.S. population, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians comprised 5% of the homeless counted in 2020.

With the exception of 2009-10, overall homeless levels in the annual point-in-time counts declined each year from 2007 to 2016, falling from 647,258 to 549,928, before reversing course in the past four years.

The overall increase is due to a steady rise in the number of homeless persons spending the night in unsheltered locations – up to 226,080 in 2020 from a low of 173,268 in 2015.

During this same time, the unhoused staying in sheltered locations declined from 391,440 to 354,386.

The full report is available here.

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