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December 19, 2017

Homelessness—Challenges and Progress

Author Affiliations
  • 1County of Los Angeles, Department of Health Services, Los Angeles, California
JAMA. 2017;318(23):2293-2294. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.15875

Homelessness is not a new phenomenon in the United States, but its visibility has increased, and the composition of the homeless population has changed. Formerly the province primarily of single men, the homeless population today increasingly includes women, children, and families. The exact number of homeless persons has always been difficult to estimate because of differences in who is defined as homeless (eg, living on street [unsheltered] only or persons also living in an unstable housing arrangement), differences in time course (eg, on a given night or within the last year), and the fact that some homeless persons hide from view. Nevertheless, the best estimates are that on a given night in 2016, approximately 550 000 individuals were homeless, of whom 32% were unsheltered and 35% involved families with children.1 Los Angeles City and County had the highest number of unsheltered persons (32 803) of any US metropolitan area.1