California and New York are Surprisingly Not the States With the Highest Increase in Homelessness

By: Lauren Wurth | Published: Sep 08, 2023

The growing rate of homelessness in the United States is caused by several factors, one of which is the steadily increasing cost of living and housing in the country. Naturally, one would think that states with a relatively higher cost of living, like California and New York, would have the highest increase in homelessness—but that isn’t the case.

According to the statistics, some states have experienced an even higher increase in homelessness than New York and California in the past few years. Let’s explore the states with the highest homelessness rates in the US.

Maine: 5.47% Increase Since 2020

As of 2021, about 2,063 unhoused people were in homeless shelters in Maine. To reduce the pandemic threat posed to these people, the government made provisions for more shelters by housing them in hotels and other places.


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However, the provided sanctuaries were only short-term solutions because the high cost of housing made some people spend more time than usual in these temporary shelters.


Virginia: 6.94% increase Since 2020

After the government removed the pandemic eviction law and ended the pandemic funding for homeless people, there was a sudden increase in the amount of homeless people in Virginia.


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This led to a shortage of space in these emergency sanctuaries in some parts of the state. Virginia’s statistics show that about 5,335 people stayed in homeless shelters in 2021.

California: 7.39% Increase After the Pandemic

Against popular belief, California has not experienced the highest increase in homelessness in the past few years. However, it is still one of the states with the highest figures, with 51,429 unhoused people as of 2021.


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In many parts of the state, shelter residents are exposed to intense heat and increased law enforcement crackdowns on encampments.

Montana: 7.56% Increase Post COVID-19 Pandemic

Montana recorded 1,168 homeless people in 2021, a 7.56% increase since the pandemic. Until recently, some parts of Montana did not have homeless shelters that were open all year.


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Residents who don’t have houses usually live in encampments on the streets when the shelters are closed. This situation exposed many of them to harsh weather conditions, especially the April 2021 snowstorm that claimed many lives.

Minnesota: A 7.85% Rise Since 2020

In 2021, Minnesota registered 6,461 residents in homeless shelters. Some state officials believe that the number of homeless people in shelters increased during the COVID-19 pandemic because the state provided sanctuary for homeless people in hotels.

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However, after the pandemic, when rental assistance and eviction suspension were terminated, the total number of homeless people immediately surged.


Rhode Island: 9% Increase Since 2020

Rhode Island became the first state in the US to pass a Homeless Bill of Rights. The law protects the increasing number of homeless people from housing status-based discrimination.

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Although the pandemic grant provided motels for unhoused people during the lockdown, the aftermath of the pandemic caused a higher number because of the reduction in affordable housing.


Colorado: 15.62% Rise Since 2020

The increasing cost of living in some places like Denver has caused an increase in the rate of homelessness in Colorado.

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The rate significantly increased between 2007 and 2021. However, for the first time, the number doubled between 2020 and 2021, totaling 8,016 in 2021. Although the number keeps rising, programs are being put in place to reduce the problem.


Nevada: 22.37% Increase Post-Pandemic

When the state of Nevada passed a law that protects tenants’ rights during the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of tenants were revealed to have been evicted unlawfully.

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Many residents who qualified for rental assistance were also evicted. In 2021, 3,293 homeless people were recorded, and this number keeps growing due to soaring rent prices.


Arkansas: 34.49% Increase Since 2020

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a gradual decline in the rate of homelessness in Arkansas. However, this figure changed in 2020. Economic and social issues caused a reverse in the trend, and by 2021, there were 1,470 homeless people.

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The major reasons for this increase are the lack of affordable housing and food insecurity, which became more significant after the lockdown.


Delaware: 55.57% Rise Since 2020

During the COVID-19 pandemic, staying in cramped places was considered dangerous, which forced many residents onto the streets, emergency encampments, or shelters.

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A large portion of these increased homeless residents are children, and with the steady decline in the availability of affordable housing, the number keeps growing. 2021 recorded about 1,579 homeless individuals.


Vermont: A Whopping 160.14% Increase Since 2020

Apart from the increased cost of living in Vermont, state officials see the conversion of houses to expensive short-term rental properties as the main reason for the increase in the rate of homelessness.

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Even though the state has spent millions of dollars to mitigate this issue, the number keeps rising. The state registered more than 2,591 homeless individuals in 2021.