The Top 10 U.S. Cities With High Homelessness Rates Cities / Towns

The Top 10 U.S. Cities With High Homelessness Rates

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This is a fact-based list of the top ten U.S. cities with a high homelessness rate, which also factors in their surrounding metropolitan areas. The homeless population by city is calculated with the help of census data, as well as journalistic investigations and public health surveys. 

The national average of the rate of homelessness is 21 people for every 10,000. The average rate for the highest homeless population cities on this list is a little above 46 people for every 10,000. And as you can see, California has more large metropolitan areas with a homelessness rate above the national average on this top ten list than any other state.

What cities have the most homeless people? Believe it or not, metropolitan areas like Honolulu, Seattle, and San Diego are on the list alongside mega-cities like New York and Los Angeles.

And please, after you read this list of top U.S. cities by their homelessness rate, donate to or volunteer at a shelter near you.

Check out more lists like the world's most highly populated areas, celebrities who themselves were once homeless, and the most horrible places to live in the US


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  1. New York City
    Photo: Freebase/CC-BY-SA
    As many as 60,000 people sleep in NYC's homeless shelters each night, and a larger number of children are either living with family members or permanently in shelters. While median income in the city continues to stay stagnant, applications for subsidized housing and public assistance have skyrocketed.
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    • Located In: New York, USA
    • Area (km sq): 1213.4
  2. Homelessness in Los Angeles was typically concentrated around the Downtown Skid Row area, and the beach communities of Santa Monica and Venice. But in recent years, homelessness has dramatically increased across the entire city. The Los Angeles Times estimates that the number of people without permanent shelter is about 44,000 in LA County - with an even larger number of working poor who cycle in and out of home insecurity. Thousands live permanently in tents, cars, and improvised shelters.
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    • Located In: California, USA
    • Area (km sq): 1301.97
  3. Seattle
    Photo: Freebase
    The last count of the homeless population of Seattle was over 10,000, with 4,500 lacking shelter. The city's skyrocketing rents, large plots of land taken by the tech industry, and lack of temporary residence has led to a number of large tent cities springing up, along with several small shelters that can hold less than a hundred people.
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    • Located In: Washington, USA
    • Area (km sq): 369.2
  4. San Diego
    Photo: Freebase/CC-BY-SA
    While San Diego's homelessness numbers have actually decreased since 2010, the city still has over 8,700 people living without permanent shelter. About half of that number is sleeping on the street with no housing. A variety of factors contribute to the city's homeless population, including good weather and proximity to beaches.
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    • Located In: California, USA
    • Area (km sq): 964.51
  5. Las Vegas
    Photo: djfpaagman/flickr/CC-BY 2.0
    HUD estimates Las Vegas and Clark County in general have about 7,500 homeless - but other estimates have that number as high as 35,000. Contrary to pop culture stereotypes, virtually none are on the street due to gambling losses, but because of job loss, divorce, substance abuse, and mental health issues.
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    • Located In: Nevada, USA
    • Area (km sq): 352.0
  6. Washington, D.C.
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
    While homelessness is decreasing in much of the country, it's had a sharp uptick in the nation's capital. Local press estimates the homeless population at 6,865 in 2013 - an increase of over 1,500 since 2007, though most have some form of shelter. High housing costs, lack of affordable rent, and a sluggish job market have kept homelessness increasing in the area, with many other working poor families struggling to make basic rent and bill payments.
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    • Located In: USA
    • Area (km sq): 176.9
  7. Chicago
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
    Chicago might have as many as 150,000 people in situations that don't involve having a permanent address, but the federal government only classifies about 6,500 as homeless. Over half the city's population are renters classified as "extremely low income," and are one setback away from homelessness.
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    • Located In: Chicago metropolitan area, Illinois, USA
    • Area (km sq): 606.1
  8. The lack of affordable housing in San Fransisco has exacerbated the city's homeless problem, which was already among the worst in the nation. The city did a homeless count in January 2015, finding 6,686 homeless people, 3,505 of whom didn't have permanent shelter. That number is likely higher now, though the exact figure is unknown. 
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    • Located In: San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA
    • Area (km sq): 600.6
  9. Honolulu
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
    The biggest city in Hawaii has an exploding homeless problem due to high rents, the high cost of living, and the warm climate. The entire state is thought to have about 7,000 homeless, with over 5,000 in Honolulu. The state has taken drastic, and sometimes illegal, measures to move the homeless out of major tourist areas, with one local lawmaker even proposing shipping them off to a remote island, as well as breaking up encampments and destroying belongings owned by the homeless.
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    • Located In: Hawaii, USA
    • Area (km sq): 177.2
  10. Owing to its cool climate and excellent social services, Portland has attracted a growing number of homeless. The city estimates that there are about 3,800 homeless people, of whom 1,887 lack shelter.
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    • Located In: Oregon, USA
    • Area (km sq): 376.58
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