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Basic Facts on Homelessness in Massachusetts and A
cross the Country

In Massachusetts:

  • The number of people experiencing homelessness is continuing to rise.
  • According to numbers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, there were 21,237 people in Massachusetts counted as experiencing homelessness during the January 2014 point-in-time counts conducted by the HUD Continua of Care across the state. Massachusetts saw the 4th highest increase in homelessness among all states between 2013-2014, according to the point-in-time (PIT) figures. Click here to see HUD's full report from October 2014
  • As of March 3, 2015, there were approximately 4,500 families with children and pregnant women in Massachusetts’ Emergency Assistance (EA) shelter program. 1,419 of these families with children were being sheltered in motels. This number does not count those families who are doubled up, living in unsafe conditions, or sleeping in their cars. Click here for nightly data on the EA program from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, and here for monthly EA-related data, including data on the reasons families needed to enter the shelter system (updated 3-3-15).
  • During state fiscal year 2014, 6,562 families were assisted with emergency shelter and/or HomeBASE household assistance, out of the 13,115 families who applied for assistance. More data on the EA and HomeBASE programs can be found here
  • 2013 data from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), released in August 2014, estimates that 9,493 high school-aged students in public schools are experiencing homelessness on any given day in Massachusetts. These figures are derived from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey responses. This number includes an estimated 4,085 unaccompanied high school students who are experiencing homelessness and not in the custody of their parent or legal guardian. To see more data from ESE, click here
  • ESE estimates that there are over 37,000 students of all ages experiencing homelessness who are enrolled in Massachusetts public schools. In the 2012-2013 academic year, public schools across Massachusetts were able to identify and serve 15,812 students who were experiencing homelessness.
  • The National Center on Family Homelessness ranks Massachusetts as #3 in the nation for its response to family homelessness, in its 2014 version of their "America's Youngest Outcasts" report: Massachusetts specific-data and the full report.
  • The number of individuals experiencing homelessness has more than doubled since 1990. 
  • On any given night in Massachusetts, the approximately 3,000 night shelter beds for individuals are usually full.
  • Sexual violence and homelessness often are interconnected. Click here for more information from our partners at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center.
  • In the City of Boston, there were 7,255 family members, individual adults, and unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness who were counted in their December 2013 point in time count.

The absence of affordable housing is a main driving force behind the rise in homelessness.

  • The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a report in March 2014 looking at the impact of the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program (more commonly known as Section 8) on households participating in the program and the larger economy. Click here for the full report and for Massachusetts-specific data.
  • There are an estimated 158,000 severely cost-burdened households in Massachusetts (households paying more than 50% of their income towards housing costs), according to HUD data, as noted in the February 2015 report from the On Solid Ground Coalition. To read the full report, please click here: On Solid Ground: Building Opportunity, Preventing Homelessness

Poverty contributes heavily to homelessness.

  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s September 2012 American Community Survey report, the overall poverty rate in Massachusetts increased to 11.6 percent in 2011 from 11.4 percent in 2010.
  • This includes an estimated 738,514 people in Massachusetts living in households that fell below the poverty threshold ($23,021 for a family of four).
  • To see data on the number of Massachusetts households receiving basic benefits through the Department of Transitional Assistance, click here. This report includes data on the following programs: Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC/"Welfare"), Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children (EAEDC), State Supplemental Security Income (State SSI supplement), and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/"Food Stamps"). (Updated October 2014)
  • To read more about the impact of housing instability on children, click here for an October 2012 policy brief by Children's HealthWatch, "Safe, Stable Homes Mean Healthier Children and Families for Massachusetts".


Across the United States:

Not surprisingly, poverty has a direct correlation to a family or individual losing their housing. For 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 46.2 million Americans — or 15.0 percent of the population — were living below the poverty line (based on an average poverty threshold of $23,021/year for a family of four). According to its latest data, the number of people living in poverty is comparable to the combined populations of Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont. This is the highest number of people living in poverty in the United States since 1959, when the federal government began the measurement. Equally startling is that the majority of impoverished families and individuals live far below the poverty line.

In November 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau released an even higher estimate that 49.7 million Americans were living below the poverty line. This figure was based on the Supplemental Poverty Measure formula, which takes into account both living expenses and benefits received through government-funded programs.

According to the latest figures from HUD, the average fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy metro area for FY'14 is $1,454/month. With numbers like this, it is not difficult to see why so many families and individuals are becoming homeless.

Click here for the 2012 U.S. Conference of Mayors Hunger and Homelessness Survey (December 2012) and here for the 2012 American Community Survey estimates for Massachusetts.

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