Homelessness in Sacramento



On any given night, 2,659 individuals experience homelessness in Sacramento County, and an estimated 5,200 will become homeless over the course of a year.

According to the 2015 Sacramento County & Incorporated Cities Homeless Count, roughly one third (948) of Sacramento County’s homeless population is unsheltered. We provide an overview of the results of the 2015 Homeless Count, along with a link to the detailed technical report, below.


About the 2015 Sacramento County & Incorporated Cities Homeless Count

At the direction of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Sacramento conducts its biennial point-in-time homeless count every other year in late January. The point-in-time count consists of a street count – in which volunteers fan out across the county in teams to count and survey individuals sleeping outside – and a shelter count, which includes all individuals currently living in Sacramento’s shelters and transitional housing programs. In addition, this year’s count includes expanded efforts to enumerate youth experiencing homelessness as well as families – populations that have been difficult to track in previous years. (Additional detail regarding the 2015 Homeless Count methodology and outcomes is available via the detailed technical report, found here.) 

The raw numbers from this count are used to estimate the total number of individuals experiencing homelessness in Sacramento County on that night. The data from this report is used to understand the nature and needs of the people experiencing homelessness in Sacramento County, gauge system effectiveness, inform program changes, and to plan additional efforts. Since 2009, the total number of individuals experiencing homelessness in Sacramento County has remained relatively constant.
















Subpopulation Changes

Individuals and families experience homelessness for a variety of reasons – job loss, leaving housing to escape abuse, mental health challenges, and so on. Some, called chronically homeless, have a disabling condition and have been homeless for one year or longer, or have experienced four or more episodes of homelessness within the past three years.

We capture this information during the point-in-time count and track it, to the best of our ability, over the course of multiple point-in-time counts, to get a sense of whether different approaches are working to bring down the numbers of individuals within these subpopulations, and make changes according to need. For instance, Sacramento currently uses data from the 2015 Homeless Count to inform its participation in the national initiative, Zero:2016, which is focused on ending veteran and chronic homelessness over the next two years. (Read more on our Ending Veteran and Chronic Homelessness page.)

The table below presents Point-In-Time Count subpopulation characteristics from 2009 to 2015 and calculates the percentage change between the two most recent Counts (2013 and 2015). Particularly noteworthy differences between 2013 and 2015 include a 7.9% increase in chronically homeless individuals, a 20.6% increase in unsheltered single adults, a 4.4% decrease in homeless families, and decreases of 14.2% and 44.3% in severe mental illness and chronic substance abuse respectively.



The 20.6% increase in unsheltered adults (an increase of 138 persons) is affected in part by the enhanced efforts of Sacramento Steps Forward and its partners to better count transition age youth living on the streets. Specifically, a count night strategy that employed youth themselves (along with youth services providers) in areas identified as having the highest concentrations of unsheltered young adults, resulted in the counting of nearly 150 more transition age youth than in the 2013 unsheltered count. Continuum of Care partner agency, Wind Youth Services, reports that this figure is consistent with its monthly count of 150 unique individuals who visit its drop-in center.

The 44.3% decrease in chronic substance abuse can be attributed to HUD-required changes to how the questions related to this subpopulation characteristic were asked in the survey. While in previous counts, respondents were only asked to report on alcohol and drug use, in 2015, they were also asked if these behaviors interfered with the ability to maintain work or housing. A similar number of people reported alcohol and drug use in 2015 compared to 2013, but much fewer felt this behavior impacted employment or housing stability (a full explanation of this issue in provided in the Technical Report).


Sacramento In Context

Nationally, the number of individuals experiencing homelessness is estimated at around 578,000, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. California is home to over 113,000 individuals experiencing homelessness, by far the most of any state in the United States, followed by New York and Florida.



In comparison to other communities in California, Sacramento has fewer individuals and families experiencing homelessness – with the exception of the Fresno-Madera Continuum of Care – and a lower unsheltered rate than other major cities besides Los Angeles. Incidentally, the percentage of the homeless population throughout Sacramento County is equivalent to the national average, despite California’s higher overall number of individuals experiencing homeless. 



Sources: 2015 Homeless Counts for the counties of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Sacramento, and the Fresno-Madera Conitnuum of Care; 2014 Estimated Population , United States Census Bureau.

As the table and bar graph make clear, relative to other cities and states, Sacramento County’s homelessness figures are generally lower than other places with high numbers of individuals experiencing homelessness. This does not excuse Sacramento from its mandate to work aggressively to end street homelessness and reach functional zero by 2020, however, it does provide some context relative to other efforts around the state and country.