Facts on Homelessness

A Project HOME outreach workers speaking with a person experiencing homelessness

Call the Philadelphia Homeless Outreach Hotline at 215-232-1984 to get help for someone experiencing homelessness.

Homelessness in the United States

All information extracted from the 2020 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress.

On a single night in January 2020, there were 580,000 people experiencing homelessness in the United States. Sixty-one percent were sheltered individuals and 39 percent were unsheltered.

Latest Data

Homelessness increased from 2019 to 2020 for the third year in a row. However, since 2007, chronic homelessness has declined overall by 10 percent.

  • Homelessness increased nationally by 0.2 percent between 2019 and 2020, accounted for by a 7 percent increase in unsheltered individuals experiencing homelessness and a decrease in sheltered individuals experiencing homelessness.
  • Overall homelessness has decreased by 12 percent since 2008.
  • Seventy percent of people experiencing homelessness were adults in households without children. The remaining 30 percent of people experiencing homelessness did so as part of a family.
  • Eighteen percent (or 106,364 individuals) of those experiencing homelessness were children under the age of 18.
  • Eight percent (45,243 individuals) were between the ages of 18 and 24

On a single night in 2020, about 34,000 unaccompanied youth—people under the age of 25 experiencing homelessness on their own—were experiencing homelessness. Ninety percent of these individuals were between the ages of 18 and 24 and 50 percent of unaccompanied youth were unsheltered. Less than 1 percent of people experiencing homelessness, 3,598, were children under 18 without an adult present.

Nearly 96,000 individuals experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2010 had chronic patterns of homelessness.

  • Chronic homelessness among individuals increased by 15 percent between 2019 and 2020 but is 8 percent lower since 2007. However, 2020 had the highest recorded number of chronically homeless individuals since 2008.

  • Two-thirds of these individuals were unsheltered—staying outdoors in abandoned buildings, or other locations not suitable for human habitation rather than staying in shelters, reflecting the high degree of vulnerability of this population.*

Just over 37,252 veterans were experiencing homelessness in the U.S.

  • Since 2009, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness has decreased by 49 percent (36,115 individuals).

*Chronically homeless individuals are individuals with disabilities who have either been continuously experiencing homelessness for one year or more or who 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.


Homelessness in Philadelphia

Latest Data

Each year, Philadelphia homeless outreach organizations engage more than 6,000 individuals living on the street, in cars, abandoned buildings, train/bus stations, and other places not meant for human habitation. 

  • Approximately 8,206 unduplicated people (including families) accessed emergency shelter in Philadelphia last year.  In addition, numerous individuals were turned away from shelter due to limited capacity.

During the 2019 - 2020 school year, 3,800 children and youth in Philadelphia experienced homelessness. However, the Philadelphia Department of Education suspects that the actual number of students experiencing homelessness is higher.

Unsheltered Totals and Center City Totals
*Starting in 2014, unsheltered counts include increased coverage of the Kensington area and other communities that were not previously included, causing street count numbers to increase.
  2018 Unsheltered total 2018 Center City count only 2019 Unsheltered total 2019 Center City count only 2020 Unsheltered total 2020 Center City count only
January 834 369     878 249
May 895 365 607 133    
August 1355 474 1066 565 952 336
November 733 242 275 787    


Causes of Homelessness in Philadelphia

The causes of homelessness are diverse and related to many systemic and institutional structures within our country. We recognize that homelessness has many intersecting causes and that data quality and availability is, for now, still limited. We have decided to highlight a few of the causes of homelessness in Philadelphia with supported data.  

Lack of jobs at competitive living wages

  • Philadelphia has a 23 percent poverty rate, one of the highest in the nation. Of that 26 percent, over half (11.1 percent) are living in deep poverty, with incomes below 50 percent of the federal poverty limit.

  • COVID-19 caused sudden and severe damage to Philadelphia’s economy in 2020.

  • The city’s average unemployment rate was 12.2 percent in 2020, 4 percent higher than the national average of 8 percent.

Disparity between housing costs and minimum wage, public supports, or earned benefits

Lack of affordable housing and inadequate housing assistance

Lack of affordable health care

Inadequate support for mental health and substance use challenges

Racial inequality

National opioid crisis

Domestic violence

Systemic Oppression 


Solutions to Homelessness

At Project HOME, we believe in a holistic approach to ending and preventing homelessness and poverty, including: 

Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)

  • Permanent Supportive Housing has been shown by multiple national studies to be a cost effective solution to ending homelessness. Saving Lives, Saving Money, a study conducted by Project HOME in 2010, concluded that PSH saves $7,700 per person per year (over the cost of serving an unsheltered individual).
  • Affordable housing is a critical component of addressing homelessness, but is insufficient on its own. Integrating housing with case management allows residents to receive services in a timely and convenient manner. Studies have found that individuals and families receiving case management are more likely to have maintained stable housing a year later.
  • Investments in PSH have decreased chronic homelessness by 27 percent since 2007.

Project HOME offers a range of housing for individuals and families who have experienced homelessness, including 936 units of affordable supportive housing, with 40 units in predevelopment and 112 units in the pipeline. 

Opportunities for employment, increased income, and education

  • Breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty requires not only housing, but sustainable, competitive employment at a living wage.  
  • Connection to mainstream benefits and entitlement income through BenePhilly, Homeless Advocacy Project, and other resources is a key component of preventing and ending homelessness. 

Project HOME’s Adult Learning and Employment programs provide computer classes, career training, job readiness workshops, life skills workshops, GED classes, adult basic literacy classes, and access to other resources to help local residents improve their lives, gain employment and pursue higher education.

Affordable and accessible healthcare

Health and homelessness are inextricably linked.  According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, an acute physical or behavioral health crisis or any long-term disabling condition may lead to homelessness. Homelessness exacerbates chronic medical conditions. 

Holistic healthcare services that address the whole person are most successful. Physical healthcare or dental care can be gateways for people to accept behavioral health services and holistic healthcare. 

Through Project HOME's Healthcare Services, we offer integrated physical and behavioral healthcare and recovery services and wellness programs for people who are currently experiencing homelessness or those who are formerly homeless, as well as for people living in the North Philadelphia community.  

A coordinated approach to crisis response

  • Homelessness prevention programs can help ensure 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, as well as shelter diversion programs. 
  • A coordinated entry system allows individuals to receive housing and services more quickly, and allows organizations to pool data in order to more accurately understand our population’s needs. Project HOME transitioned to a Central Intake model in 2018, in tandem with the City of Philadelphia’s new Coordinated Entry system. These structures allow Project HOME to place vulnerable individuals in appropriate housing in a more efficient and timely manner.  

Project HOME works with Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services and Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbilities as a part of the local Continuum of Care (a network of government agencies, provider organizations, local stakeholders, and individuals currently or formerly experiencing homelessness) to implement a strategic, city-wide response to homelessness.

None of us are home until all of us are home®