Every year in January, homeless populations across the U.S. are tallied in the span of a single night as part of an annual point-in-time counting process.

In the three-county Greater Houston area—which encompasses Harris County, Fort Bend County and Montgomery County—the official counting commenced on the night of Jan. 23. The unsheltered population was counted over a several days from Jan. 25-27 in a process that also included a survey.

By the numbers
  • 1,242 people were living in a place not meant for human habitation, a decrease from 1,502 people in 2022.
  • 2,028 people were staying in emergency shelters, transitional housing or a safe haven, an increase from 1,721 people in 2022.
  • The overall unsheltered population decreased by 17% from 2022.
  • The overall sheltered count increased by 18% from 2022.
  • On the night of the count, Jan. 23, 6,876 people were in permanent supportive housing, and 2,440 were in rapid rehousing.
  • While making up only 20% of the population in Houston, people who are Black or African American make up 55% of the population experiencing homelessness.
  • 85 homeless encampments have been decommissioned in 2023.
    • 57% of those living in decommissioned encampments have gone to the city's new Navigation Center, which opened in February on Jensen Drive.
  • Since the Navigation Center opened, 112 people have entered; 57 have left; and 52 of those who have left have been housed.
  • Homelessness in Texas has decreased by 36% since 2012.
  • More than 28,000 homeless people in Houston have been housed since 2012 through The Way Home initiative.
Of the unsheltered population surveyed by count officials:
  • 42% said they were experiencing homelessness for the first time, an increase year over year of 40%.
  • 33% cited an economic impact, such as job loss, as the primary cause of their homelessness.
  • 8% said they were experiencing unsheltered homelessness due to a natural disaster, down from 14% in 2022.
  • 9% said they were experiencing homelessness due to COVID-19, down from 13% in 2022.
Counters noted an increase in those who reported experiencing chronic homelessness from 20% in 2022 to 24% in 2023. There were also increases in families and youths ages 18-24 who were surveyed, each up 1 percentage point from 2022 to 7% and 6%, respectively.

Data by county
  • Harris County: 1,803 sheltered and 1,186 unsheltered
  • Fort Bend County: 47 sheltered and 20 unsheltered
  • Montgomery County: 178 sheltered and 36 unsheltered
Terms to know
  • Sheltered homelessness: a person or family who lacks fixed, adequate housing and is living in a shelter
  • Unsheltered homelessness: a person or family who lacks fixed, adequate housing and is living in a place not meant for human habitation, such as a park or an encampment
  • Chronic homelessness: a person with a disability who has been either homeless for over a year or has had four or more occasions of homelessness in the last three years
  • Rapid rehousing: a housing-first solution to provide housing to people experiencing homelessness as soon as possible
  • Permanent supportive housing: a program designed to provide long-term housing to those facing homelessness
Quote of note

“Reducing homelessness by 17% in one year and nearly 40% since coming into office, does not happen by mistake,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “Rather, it’s the result of making it a top priority, enhancing our invaluable partnership with Harris County and the community, and strategically funding data-proven, holistic housing solutions. Although Houston is showing the state and nation how to reduce street homelessness and encampments successfully, the job is not done. We will continue our groundbreaking, successful efforts until every Houstonian is off our streets. We must do more.”

The takeaway

The city of Houston is emerging as a leader among similarly sized cities in its response to homelessness.

Count data for 2023 is yet to be released for all major cities. However, according to 2022 counts, there were 0.5 homeless people per capita in Houston, compared to 2.42 in Austin, 7.08 in New York City and 9.51 in San Francisco.

There was a total of 3,270 sheltered and unsheltered individuals counted in Houston in 2023. The overall homeless population in Houston has decreased at the same time evictions increased in Harris County.