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People sleeping on park benches and street corners are the most visible reminder of the United States’ continuing struggle with homelessness. On any given night, over 175,000 people are unsheltered, sleeping outside or in places not meant for human habitation. On a positive note, unsheltered homelessness has been declining nationally for several years, but some jurisdictions, particularly some large cities, report increases.

A handful of CoCs reported 1,500 or more unsheltered individuals in 2016 and have reported consistently increasing numbers since 2011: Los Angeles, CA; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; Oakland, CA; and Salinas, CA. Large increases were also reported in more recent years in San Diego, CA; Phoenix, AZ; Anaheim, CA; and throughout Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

The accompanying brief discuss possible causes of high rates or increasing counts and have implications for improving policies and practices. Data are from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Census Bureau.  Other information is from surveyed communities with large or increasing unsheltered populations, and members of the Alliance’s Leadership Council and Research Council.