About Homelessness

Every day, our staff members are asked three basic questions about homelessness in Hillsborough County:

How many people are homeless?
Who is homeless?
What causes homelessness?

How many people are homeless in Tampa-Hillsborough County?
According to the 2016 Homeless Count in Hillsborough County, on any given night there are at least 1,817 homeless men, women, and children in Tampa-Hillsborough County.  These are people who are sleeping on the streets, behind buildings, in encampments, in cars, emergency shelters and transitional housing.

Who is homeless in Tampa-Hillsborough County?
According to the 2016 Homeless Count Results, we know the following about who is homeless:

38% are female
19% are under the age of 18
10% have served in the U.S. Military
13% are Hispanic
29% report having a disability (physical, mental health, developmental)
15% report having a mental illness
56% are experiencing homelessness for the FIRST time
76% lived in Hillsborough County for at least 1 year BEFORE becoming homeless
88% are households without children

(percentages are based on the number of people who answered the specific question; a ‘household’ is a one or more persons, related or unrelated, residing as a household unit)

How do we know this information?
Each year, THHI coordinates the annual Tampa/Hillsborough County CoC homeless count in Hillsborough County which provides a ‘snapshot’ of homelessness in the community on a single day of the year.  This ‘snapshot’ data helps the community understand who is experiencing homelessness and is used by the CoC, THHI, local leaders and others to develop policies and make funding decisions.

Visit our 2016 Homeless Count Data page to learn more about the demographics of who is homeless in Tampa-Hillsborough County.

What Causes Homelessness?

Plain and simple, homelessness happens when a person is unable to afford to pay for a place to live or their current home is unsafe or unstable.

People are homeless for a wide variety of reasons, a good number of which are at least partly and often largely beyond a person’s control.  People lose jobs and then housing. Women run away to the street to escape domestic violence. Many people have experienced significant trauma and simply cannot cope with life. Others struggle with mental illness, depression or post-traumatic stress.

There are many factors that can contribute to a person’s inability to afford housing, though most are financial – unemployment, underemployment, low-paying jobs and lack of affordable housing.

In fact, according to the Tampa/Hillsborough County CoC 2016 Homeless Count in Hillsborough County, 55 percent of homeless people said the reason for their homelessness was employment/financial.

Once homeless, the lack of housing, access to healthcare, and supportive services, then act as other barriers that keep individuals from moving into back into housing.

Surprised by this information?

Like many people we talk to, this information may have been quite different than expected.  Turns out there are a lot of misperceptions, inaccurate information and plain myths being circulated in the community around who is homeless and why.

Visit our Myths about Homelessness page to learn more about common misperceptions about homelessness.