Homelessness increased 6.8% in California from 2019 to 2020

According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), California saw a 6.8% increase in homelessness between 2019 and 2020, and a 16.2% increase between 2007 and 2020. This increase from 2019-2020 is the largest increase in a state in that time frame.

The 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report found that California accounted for more than half of all unsheltered people in the country. This is nearly nine times the number of unsheltered people in the state with the next highest number.


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Forty-one per 10,000 people were homeless in California, and 70% of the homeless people in the state were without shelter.

In Los Angeles City and County there were 63,706 people experiencing homelessness, 72% of whom had no shelter at all. 

California also experienced a large increase in the percentage of homeless people in families during 2019-2020, an increase of about 14.6% or 3,276 people. This is 15% of the people in families experiencing homelessness in the nation.

Youth homelessness is also a major issue in California. The state reported the largest numbers of homeless unaccompanied youth in the nation, 12,172 people, accounting for nearly a third of all unaccompanied youth nationally.

Three major cities in California had percentages of unaccompanied youth staying in unsheltered

locations exceeding 75%: San Jose (96%), San Francisco (80%) and Oakland (77%). Four suburban areas had rates of unaccompanied youth without shelter of 95% or higher: Marin County (97%), San Luis Obispo (97%), Santa Cruz (97%) and Imperial County (95%).

California’s 11,401 veterans accounted for 31% of all veterans experiencing homelessness in the United States, which is more than half of all unsheltered veterans.

Homelessness grew by 2% nationwide from 2019 to 2020. This marks the fourth consecutive year that total homelessness has increased in the United States. 

The report found homelessness increased significantly among unsheltered populations and people that are experiencing chronic homelessness. Veteran homelessness did not decrease from 2019 to 2020, and family homelessness did not decrease for the first time since 2010. People of color are also significantly over-represented among the homeless population.

Denis McDonough, the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, said this was concerning.

“Even a slight pre-pandemic uptick in veteran homelessness after significant declines since 2010 is extremely concerning. The Biden Administration’s recommitment to Housing First — a proven strategy and dignified way to help Veterans and others achieve stable, permanent housing — will help accelerate progress in preventing and eliminating veteran homelessness. The American Rescue Plan will also make a major impact in improving outcomes for veterans by expanding access to community-based homeless prevention and rapid rehousing services for those who may not qualify for VA care.”