Departmental Papers (SPP)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

July 2001


Objectives. This study reports findings from the first-ever systematic enumeration of homeless population size using data previously collected from administrative records of homeless services providers in nine US jurisdictions over a one year period. As such, it provides the basis for establishing an ongoing measure of the parameters of the homeless population and for tracking related trends on the use of homeless services over time.

Methods. Each participating jurisdiction collected data through its homeless services management information systems for persons and families who use emergency shelter and transitional housing. The jurisdictions organized the data by a standardized reporting format. These data form the basis for reporting homeless population size, both in raw numbers and as adjusted for each jurisdiction’s overall population size, as well as the rate of turnover and average annual length of stay in emergency shelters and transitional housing.

Results. Individual jurisdictions had annual rates of sheltered homelessness ranging from 0.1% to 2.1% of their overall population, and 1.3% to 10.2% of their poverty population. Annual population size was 2.5 to 10.2 times greater than the point-prevalent population size. Results are broken down for adults and families.

Conclusions. The prevalence of homelessness varies greatly among the jurisdictions included in this study, and possible factors for this diversity are discussed. Future reports of this nature will furnish similar series of homeless enumerations across a growing number of jurisdictions, thereby providing a basis for exploring the effects of different contextual factors on local prevalence rates of homelessness.


Reprinted with permission. Published in Public Health Reports, Volume 116, Issue 4, July 2001, pages 344-352.
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Date Posted: 30 August 2007

This document has been peer reviewed.