Health Conditions Among Unsheltered Adults in the U.S.

POLICY BRIEF: Health Conditions Among Unsheltered Adults in the U.S. PDF

TECHNICAL APPENDIX: Technical Appendix: Health Conditions Among Unsheltered Adults in the U.S. PDF

PRESS RELEASE: Health Conditions Among Unsheltered Adults in the U.S.

The California Policy Lab analyzed responses from more than 64,000 adults in the United States experiencing both sheltered and unsheltered homelessness. Unsheltered adults are far more likely to report suffering from chronic health conditions, mental health issues, and experiences with trauma and substance abuse problems as compared to homeless people who are living in shelters. As policymakers design interventions for unsheltered individuals and balance investments in emergency housing and permanent housing, they will need to consider whether emergency housing is adequate or appropriate for a highly vulnerable population, half of whom are trimorbid.

Important research note: A number of people have mistakenly understood this research to be focused on individuals in Los Angeles, or in California, which is not the case. This is not a study of individuals experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles, or even in California. The survey data were collected in 15 different states across the United States, and were not constructed to be a representative sample of the homeless population in those states. The findings should not be generalized to all homeless individuals or used to describe the homeless population in Los Angeles. In addition, the surveys analyzed in this report are not typically given to all unsheltered adults, ask about lifetime prevalence of health and mental health conditions (as compared to asking only about more recent experiences with these conditions), and rely on self-reported information rather than clinical diagnoses. Important limitations with the data used in this research are listed in the methodology section of the policy brief and in the accompanying technical appendix. If you have questions about these limitations, the data, or findings, please contact We are happy to help contextualize these findings.

If you are interested in data on unsheltered individuals in Los Angeles, we encourage you to read our recent study “Unsheltered in Los Angeles: Insights from Street Outreach Services Data.” In this study we use clinical service records from the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health to estimate 20% of individuals participating in Street Outreach services had a clinical diagnosis of serious mental illness within the previous twelve years.

Select media coverage about the Health Conditions Among Unsheltered Adults in the U.S.

Watch an ABC 7 Los Angeles interview with Janey Rountree about the report findings:

NBC Los Angeles: UCLA Study Finds Health Problems, Trauma Rates High for Unsheltered Homeless October 7, 2019.

UCLA Daily Bruin:UCLA study shows health problems significantly contribute to homelessness October 8, 2019.





Stay Informed