Understanding Homelessness in California

Understanding the dynamic nature of the people that seek homelessness services over time gives us a clearer picture of what we can do to end homelessness, together. This and so many other topics are now possible to explore through California’s newly launched Homeless Data Integration System (HDIS).

Point-in-Time - 161,548 people experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2020. The HUD Point-in-Time Count tells us how many people were outside or in an emergency shelter on one night. Served - In 2020, local providers reported serving a total of 248,130 people. Local Providers across California report how many people experiencing homelessness receive services over one year. Housed - Of the people who were served, 91,626 people moved into their own home throughout 2020. With HDIS, we now know how many people were permanently housed by local providers over the same one-year period.

Through the state’s partnership with Continuums of Care, HDIS provides a sharper focus on what California has been doing to respond to the growing homelessness crisis.

Insights from HDIS:

  • Of the 248,130 people local providers reported serving in 2020:
    • 91,626 people (37%) moved into permanent housing
    • 117,109 people (47%) remained actively engaged in services or shelter but were not yet permanently housed, and
    • 39,395 people (16%) disengaged from services and exited back to homelessness or unknown destinations.
  • Project Roomkey and other life-saving crisis response efforts taken to address the pandemic are clear. In 2020, people served through street outreach increased by 13% and people accessing emergency shelter increased by 12% (compared to 2019).
  • California has significantly increased homelessness prevention services. In 2020, 32,189 people received homelessness prevention assistance, more than double the number of people served in 2017.
  • 96% of people who accessed services while experiencing homelessness did so in only one California jurisdiction – contrary to some theories that individuals experiencing homelessness travel around the state seeking services.
  • Among the people experiencing homelessness who accessed services in 2020:
    • 41% reported a disabling condition
    • 9% were veterans
    • 17% reported experiences with domestic violence
    • 22% were under the age of 18
  • Homelessness in California reflects stark racial inequities and the impacts of systemic racism. These inequities have resulted in disproportionate negative impacts for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in California. The number of people experiencing homelessness does not mirror the racial makeup of our state. Despite representing 5.6% of California’s total population, Black or African Americans represent 31% of those accessing homelessness services.

Notes: (1) in the Point-in-Time (PIT) Count, people are classified as experiencing homelessness if they are unsheltered (living in a place not meant for human habitation) or in emergency shelter or transitional housing; (2) the term “own home” includes people who moved into their own subsidized or unsubsidized permanent housing or living with relatives or friends on a permanent basis; and (3) the term “disengaged from services” includes people who exited back into homelessness, to other temporary housing locations (such as unsubsidized hotel/motel stays, group homes, long-term care or other medical facilities, incarceration, or staying with relatives or friends on a temporary basis), or to unknown locations (including people who were deceased).

Want to dig into the data more? Explore the topics below!

People Served

Explore how California has responded to the homelessness crisis and how many people received help.


Demographics of People Who Were Served

Understand the diversity of people served by the homelessness response system.



Explore the range of services that the California Homelessness Response System provided in 2020.


Multiple Jurisdictions

Learn about how people seek services in one or more areas.


For more information about the development of HDIS and HDIS-related inquiries, click here.

Are you experiencing homelessness and need assistance? Click here.

If you have questions, please contact HDIS@bcsh.ca.gov.

HDIS is administered by the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council, which is housed within the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency (BCSH).