Homelessness is REAL in Atlanta

The three most cited reasons for family homelessness are: 1) Lack of affordable housing, 2) unemployment, and 3) poverty. People experiencing homeless typically do not have a reliable source of transportation, or disposable income for travel expenses. There are approximately 10,000 homeless in greater Atlanta.

Data collection in 2020 found there are approximately 3,200 homeless people within the City of Atlanta's 130 square-mile footprint 41% are in emergency shelter. 28% are in transitional housing. 31% are on the streets.

It may not always seem apparent, but progress is being made. While nationally homelessness is trending upward and other cities have seen sharp increases in recent years, the City of Atlanta has seen a 25 percent decrease since 2015.

This data is gathered by the Atlanta Continuum of Care, a group of more than 100 organizations that work together to address homelessness. The group - which gets help from 300+ volunteers - takes a census every January, as mandated by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The figures, while not absolute, serve as a benchmark to show trends over time.

On January 27, 2020, 3,240 homeless people were counted within city limits, 939 of whom were unsheltered (found to be outside or in cars). For context, the 2015 effort counted 4,300 homeless people overall. One of Midtown Alliance's staffers volunteered in the field for this effort.

Key Findings

Here are some key findings from the latest report that illuminate the many facets of the challenge:

increase in homeless since 2018

decrease in homeless since 2015

homeless adults in the City of Atlanta are dealing with a serious mental illness or substance abuse issue

are military veterans or survivors of domestic abuse


  • Homeless people need to “just get a job”.

  • Homeless people are lazy.

  • Homelessness could never happen to me.

  • Homelessness is always related to mental illness.

  • Most homeless people are addicted to drugs and alcohol

  • Homeless people live on the streets.


  • There is no county in the country where the federal minimum wage is enough to afford a Fair Market Rent, one-bedroom apartment.

  • A 2013 US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) study found that 55 percent of homeless had worked during the previous year.

  • Homeless families are often hidden from our view—they are living in shelters, cars, campgrounds, or doubled up in overcrowded apartments.

  • About one in four sheltered homeless people suffered from a severe mental illness in 2010, according to the SAMHSA.

  • Roughly one-third of sheltered homeless adults had chronic substance use issues in 2010, according to the SAMHSA.

  • About 69 percent of homeless Americans lived in shelters in 2014, according to HUD’s survey.

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