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City of Boston Homeless Census

January 25, 2017 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

boston homeless census

Every January, community leaders and volunteers head into Boston to conduct the “Point in Time” census count of homeless individuals and families. Mayor Marty Walsh also joins them as they canvas the streets, gathering data to help gauge the state of the homelessness problem in the city.

How We Measure

The census looks at several key statistics to properly measure the scope of homelessness in Greater Boston. Among others, they are:

  • The total number of homeless individuals in the city as an aggregate
  • Families officially classified as homeless
  • The number of single adults experiencing homelessness
  • The number of families and individuals on the streets during the census itself
  • The number of people in emergency shelters during the census
  • Those people who’ve taken refuge in domestic violence shelters

With this data, we can see if Boston has improved its homelessness situation since the previous year. These numbers also show us where and how we can better focus our efforts until the next census. Lastly, the data sets a benchmark for service and pushes us to improve on previous successes.

There’s good news for 2018: overall homelessness dropped three percent as of this year’s report. There are now 181 more people from 115 families who are off the streets and out of shelters, but there’s always more to do.

Our Goals

Catalog homelessness so we know how to fight it. The census gives a clear, exact picture of how close Boston is to a no-one-is-homeless city. The data gives an in-depth look at the homelessness problem as a whole, how our programs are succeeding, and where there might still be gaps.

Get our community involved in the conversation. The Homeless Census is about more than the numbers: it’s about people. We want a larger part of our community engaged in ending homelessness for good.

Understand where Boston stands on a regional and national level. The “Point in Time” census is a nationwide effort, and every year we get to see how Boston stacks up against the rest of the country. We’re proud to say we hold one of the lowest homelessness rates in the US, but seeing how other cities fare — and how they deal with homelessness — gives us fuel to keep innovating.

Here’s a snapshot of homelessness in Boston based on 2018’s census:

  • 6,146 total homeless throughout the city
  • 2,341 individual homeless adults
  • Zero individuals on the streets during census taking
  • A nine percent decrease in family homelessness  
    • 1,239 families in 2017 to 1,123 in 2018

How You Can Get Involved

The homeless census takes place annually near the end of January. If you would like to join as a census volunteer, additional information and sign up are available at this link [link needed, placeholder: https://www.boston.gov/departments/neighborhood-development/annual-homeless-census]

We also invite you to help fight homelessness in Greater Boston and the surrounding region via your donation.   

Click below to donate:

[Donate button]

Let’s make this the moment when we make homelessness history.


January 25, 2017
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm


Kelley McNamara
KMcNamara @ unitedwaymassbay.org


The Boston Consulting Group
53 State St. 32nd Floor
Boston, MA 02108
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