Facts on Homelessness


Scope of Homelessness Nationwide 1

On a single night in January 2016, there were 549,928 people experiencing homelessness in the United States; 68 percent sheltered and 32 percent unsheltered.

  • One quarter (22 percent or 120,819) were children under the age of 18 
  • Nine percent (50,001) were between the ages of 18 and 24
  • 69 percent (or 379,108) were 25 years or older
  • 77,486 individuals and 8,646 people in families met the definition of chronically homeless*
    • Chronic homelessness among individuals declined by seven percent (or 5,684) over the past year, and by 35 percent (or 42,327) between 2007 and 2016
  • 39,471 were veterans, of which less than 10 percent (3,328) were female
    • Between 2015 and 2016, homelessness among veterans declined by 17 percent (8,254 fewer veterans); since 2009, homelessness among veterans declined by 46 percent (33,896)
  • 35,686 were unaccompanied children and youth; 89 percent (31,862) were between the ages of 18 and 24, and 11 percent (3,824) were under age 18
    • The National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that during a year approximately 550,000 unaccompanied, single youth and young adults up to the age of 24 experience a homelessness episode of longer than one week 2
  • Homelessness nationally declined by three percent (14,780 people) between 2015 and 2016, and by 15 percent (or 97,330) since 2007

* Chronically homeless individuals are unaccompanied homeless individuals with disabilities who have either been continuously homeless for a year or more or have experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years where the combined length of time homeless in those occasions is at least 12 months.

Scope of Homelessness in Philadelphia 3

  • In 2015, homeless outreach organizations engaged over 6,500 individuals living on the street, in cars, abandoned buildings, train/bus stations, and other places not meant for human habitation 4
  • About 15,000 people (includes families) access shelter in Philadelphia each year. 5 In addition, numerous individuals are turned away from shelter due to capacity
  • The City’s January 2016 Point-in-Time count included 705 unsheltered individuals throughout the entire City of Philadelphia 6


*Starting in 2014, unsheltered counts include increased coverage of the Kensington area and other communities that were not previously included, causing street count numbers have increase.

How to help

Causes of Homelessness

  • Poverty from a lack of jobs at competitive living wages
    • Philadelphia has a 26 percent poverty rate, 7 one of the highest in the nation.
  • Disparity between housing costs and minimum wage, public supports, or earned benefits
    • In Philadelphia, someone would have to work 81 hours per week at the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour to afford even a modest one-bedroom apartment 8
    • Pennsylvania’s Social Security Income payment is only $733 per month, 9 when the average one-bedroom rent is $768 per month 10
  • Lack of affordable transportation
  • Lack of affordable housing and inadequate housing assistance
    • 84 percent of Philadelphians making less than $20,000 in 2013 paid 30 percent or more of their household income on housing costs and most of these spend more than 50 percent of income on housing 11
    • There are only 35 affordable units for every 100 extremely low-income ($23,000) households 12
  • Lack of affordable health care
    • In Philadelphia, 13 percent of residents are without health insurance 13
    • Out of the 67 counties in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia County is ranked 67th (worst) for health outcomes and 67th (worst) for health factors including health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment 14
  • Domestic violence 15
    • On an average night, 250 individuals who are homeless in Philadelphia self-report as victims of domestic violence
    • In FY15, the Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline received 14,661 calls for assistance with domestic violence issues
  • Inadequate support for mental health and substance use challenges
    • According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, approximately 30 percent of people experiencing chronic homelessness have a serious mental illness, and around two-thirds have a primary substance use disorder or other chronic health condition. These health problems may create difficulties in accessing and maintaining stable, affordable, and appropriate housing
    • Research from the Collaborative Initiative to Help End Chronic Homelessness (CICH), a joint effort of HUD and Veterans Affairs, sheds light on the prevalence of these issues. They indicate that, at program entry, 72 percent of participants had substance use disorders and 76 percent had mental illness problems

Costs of Homelessness versus Housing

Saving Lives, Saving Money a Project HOME study conducted in 2010, concluded that permanent supportive housing saves $7,700 per person annually (over the cost of serving an unsheltered person).

Ending and Preventing Homelessness

  • Develop effective solutions for those on the street, including targeted outreach and appropriate facilities and services, particularly for persons with substance-abuse and mental-health problems

  • Strengthen the system of shelter and services that enable persons who are  homeless to make the transition to stability and job readiness

  • Provide permanent solutions—jobs and housing—so that people can break the cycle of homelessness and become stable and productive citizens

  • Strengthen homelessness prevention programs so that no one ends up in shelters or on the streets; this includes reinvesting in economically vulnerable neighborhoods, improving the school system, making sure people have access to health care, and providing jobs at a living wage

How to help

Current number of available dedicated homeless units in Philadelphia according to the 2016 Homeless Inventory Chart 17

Emergency: 3,768 (+20 under development)

Transitional: 1,905 (+8 under development)

Safe Haven: 85

Permanent: 6,046 (+1110 under development)

TOTAL: 11,804 (+1138 under development)

Current number of dedicated homeless units in development in Philadelphia

Emergency: 20

Transitional: 8

Permanent: 1110 under development

TOTAL: 1138 under development


3. It is difficult to calculate the exact number of people living on the street, because many live in hidden park areas, vehicles, or abandoned houses, and because numbers fluctuate based on weather.

5. Estimated from 2016 Housing Inventory Chart at http://www.phila.gov/osh/PDF/Philadelphia%20CoC%20-%202016%20Housing%20I... (roughly 3,800 year-round/non-seasonal beds) times average 4 turnovers per year.  City-funded shelter received approximately 10,000 unduplicated individuals in 2015 in 2,700 beds, per James Moore.