“The age at which you mare most likely to be in a homeless shelter in the United States is infancy.” – Dr. Beth Shinn
Counts of people who experience homelessness depend on how one defines homelessness and over what period one looks. The Department of Housing and Urban Development defines homelessness as living in a shelter or other temporary homeless –serving program or as sleeping in a place not intended for human habitation, such as the street a transportation hub, or a car. It reports that on a single night in January 2016, 549,928 were literally homeless. Almost three times as many people stay in homeless programs over the course of a year. HUD reports that 1,484,576 people experienced homelessness over a year from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015. (The latter number has decreased 6.5% since 2007.)
The Department of Education defines homelessness more broadly, including children and youth (alone or in families) who share housing with other people due to economic hardship (often called doubling up) or who live in hotels or motels, trailer parks or camping grounds due to lack of alternative accommodations. By this definition, 1.3 million school children experience homelessness over the course of a year and although the majority of people experiencing homelessness (by the HUD definition) are single adults, the age at which a person is at highest risk of staying in a homeless shelter is infancy .
Quick facts 
- On a single night in 2016, 549,928 people were experiencing homelessness in the United States. A majority (68%) was staying in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs, or safe havens, and 32 percent were in unsheltered locations.
- Over one-fifth of people experiencing homelessness were children (22%), 69 percent were over the age of 24, and nine percent were between the ages of 18 and 24.
- There were 355,212 people experiencing homelessness as individuals, accounting for 65 percent of the homeless population.
- There were 194,716 people in families with children experiencing homelessness, representing 35 percent of the homeless population. 39.471 were veterans.
- There were 77,486 individuals and 8,646 people in families with children with chronic patterns of homelessness.
- There were 35,686 unaccompanied homeless youth in January 2016. Most (89%) were between the ages of 18 and 24. The remaining 11 percent were unaccompanied children, under the age of 18.
- Of all people experiencing homelessness on that night in January 2016, 49.3% were in the 50 largest cities, with the remainder in smaller cities or rural areas.
- Exhibit 1.2 p. 8 shows the division of people into families and individuals, sheltered and unsheltered.