Man walking down alley in Newark, Ohio

The 2022 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, produced by The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, estimated that 10,654 Ohioans faced homelessness during the year, representing 9 in every 10,000 individuals.[1] Over 80% of the homeless were sheltered.[1] This population was made up of 3,214 people who belonged to families with children, 703 unaccompanied youth, 633 veterans, and 1,023 chronically homeless individuals.[1]

Homelessness in Ohio has been declining, as Ohio ranks as one of the U.S. states with lower rates of homelessness and has a strong support system in place for the homeless population.[1] Although unchanged in recent years, the 2022 homeless population in Ohio saw a 5.4% decrease from 2007.[1] The AHAR concluded that since 2007, Ohio had seen the fourth largest decrease by state in chronic homelessness, with 1,285, or 55.7%, of the chronically homeless population escaping the cycle.[1] However, all three major cities in Ohio experienced increased homeless populations due to housing shortages in 2023.[2][3][4]

In a 1986 study of nearly 1,000 homeless individuals in Ohio, it was determined that Ohio's homeless population was quite different from traditional homeless communities. Most of the studied individuals had lived in no more than two places in the month before the study, with 65% of them having either been born in the county they lived in or lived in that county for at least a year.[5] Furthermore, 87% of the population had held a job in the past, and 25% had been working in the month before being interviewed.[5]

Possible causes


The Ohio housing situation is facing a crisis, with housing costs increasing dramatically and availability declining. Government census data estimates that population growth (1.74%) has outpaced the increase in housing units (1.66%) over the last five years.[6] For low-income families, affordable housing has been difficult to find, as for every 100 low-income households, only 80 affordable units exist.[7] Furthermore, the median price for a house in 2019 was 2.4 times the median household income, pushing home ownership out of reach even for middle-income individuals.[7] The quality of housing has also been declining: 50% of houses in Ohio were built before 1965, and 30% of available housing was built before 1940. In 2015, an estimated 4% of Ohioans lived in a house that was deemed structurally inadequate, representing over 200,000 housing units.[8]

Corporations[9][10][11] are putting additional stress on the housing market, as these companies are purchasing an increasing number of Ohio homes to rent out for profit.[12] In 2021, institutional investors were responsible for 16% of the home buyer market, the sixth highest rate in the country.[13] Ohio Senator Louis Blessing warned in June 2023 that, by 2040, 40-50% of homes could be owned by corporations.[12] Corporations reducing home ownership and driving up prices has led to billions of dollars in wealth lost, disproportionately affecting low-income individuals.[14]

A 2022 study concluded that this housing shortage was likely underestimated, as study methodologies considered the number of houses that would have been built following historical trends, failing to account for supply and demand constraints that affected those rates. Thus, the housing shortage may be more significant than the data appears to show.[15]



As of 2019, around 35,000 students struggled with homelessness at some point during the school year. This included 374 unsheltered youth, 5,209 sheltered students, nearly 2,000 living in hotels or motels, and over 25,000 with shared living agreements. This was partially attributed in a 2022 study to an increase in housing costs coupled with low construction and vacancy.[16]

The McKinney-Vento Law was designed to support homeless youth in Ohio. The law gives students the right to enrollment, transportation, and support, among other things. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provided additional funds for students, with Ohio receiving nearly $30 million. This money went to 30 different school districts to serve as a short-term solution in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.[17]

Major cities


Columbus has been facing a significant homelessness issue, trending in the opposite direction of the overall state. The homeless population totaled 2,036 in 2019. This reflected roughly a 7% increase from 2018, including a 17.5% decrease in the sheltered homeless population. Columbus' homeless population is made up of 35.3% of families with children and 3.7% of homeless youth.[18]

In 2018, the Columbus City Council passed ordinance 1777–2018, a measure aimed to find an alternative way to curb panhandling in the face of the Supreme Court's Reed v. Town of Gilbert ruling.[19] This ordinance, while not banning panhandling, made it illegal to distribute money in the roadway, stand within close proximity to someone operating an ATM, and attempt to initiate distribution by touching or grabbing somebody. Councilmember Mitchell J. Brown described it as " not an attack on poverty or homelessness, but a measure to provide protections for those who give and those who receive."[20]


In 2017, around 23,000 people in Cuyahoga County (where Cleveland is located) faced homelessness, with Cleveland Public School District being home to nearly 2,750 homeless students. This is compounded by the fact that Cuyahoga County has seen the number of sheltered beds drop by 444 and a waitlist of over 21,000.[21]

To address this problem, Cuyahoga County's Department of Health and Human Services released a four-year action plan in January 2023. This plan seeks to decrease the homeless population in the county by 25%. Some of the steps outlined include improving accessibility to homelessness prevention services, short-term shelters, more affordable housing, and bolstering the department's resources.[22]

In 2017, Cleveland repealed its anti-panhandling laws. Faced with a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of John Mancini, a US veteran, the city repealed laws against panhandling.[23] The city council also significantly reformed laws restricting pedestrians near roadways, removing any language referring to panhandling specifically.


In 2021, Cincinnati had a total of 6,062 homeless individuals, representing a 14% reduction since 2019. This population housed in emergency shelters dropped by 16% since 2019, to 5,603 individuals. There has been a 10% drop in the unsheltered homeless population since 2020 and a 46% decrease since 2013. Of this homeless population, 23%, or 1,381 are children.[24]

The city in June 2023 allocated a $2.1 million grant for the Human Services Fund, a company that plans to use data analytics to identify and address patterns in the Cincinnati homeless population. In addition, the organization will work with landlords across the city to improve accessibility to affordable housing.[25]

Cincinnati's City Ordinance 910-12 outlines circumstances in which panhandling is banned, including soliciting from individuals on public transportation, within 20 feet of any financial institution or ATM, on private property, and from those getting into their vehicles. Violating this ordinance is a fourth-degree misdemeanor, which is bumped up to third-degree after three violations.[26]


  1. ^ a b c d e f De Sousa, Tanya, Alyssa Andrichik, Marissa Cuellar, Jhenelle Marson, Ed Prestrera, and Katherine Rush. "The 2022 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress: Part 1 Point-In-Time Estimates of Homelessness." Washington DC: The US Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Community Planning and Development (2022).
  2. ^ "Concerns mount as new homeless encampments emerge in downtown Cleveland". October 5, 2023. Retrieved 2023-11-02.
  3. ^ "How many Columbus people are unhoused? The Community Shelter Board releases annual count". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 2023-11-02.
  4. ^ "Affordable Housing". Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. 2013-01-09. Retrieved 2023-11-02.
  5. ^ a b Roth, Dee; Bean, Jerry (1986). "The Ohio study: A comprehensive look at homelessness". Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal. 9 (4): 31–38. doi:10.1037/h0099151. ISSN 0147-5622.
  6. ^ "Housing Units, Population and Cost Rank Measures for | Department of Numbers". Retrieved 2023-10-19.
  7. ^ a b "2021 Ohio Housing Needs Assessment Executive Summary". Retrieved 2023-10-19.
  8. ^ "Housing Stock: Housing Needs Assessment | Ohio Housing Finance Agency". Retrieved 2023-10-19.
  9. ^ "A corporate landlord in Ohio pushes to evict tenants, critics say". NBC News. 2022-11-22. Retrieved 2023-11-13.
  10. ^ Horn, Dan. "Port buys almost 200 family homes for $14.5 million from struggling out-of-town landlord". The Enquirer. Retrieved 2023-11-13.
  11. ^ Rantala, Lisa (2023-07-27). "Homeownership dropping in Ohio as corporations target single-family homes to rent". WSYX. Retrieved 2023-11-13.
  12. ^ a b Rantala, Lisa (2023-07-27). "Homeownership dropping in Ohio as corporations target single-family homes to rent". WSYX. Retrieved 2023-10-19.
  13. ^ National Association of Realtors Research Group, Impact of Institutional Buyers on Home Sales and Single-Family Rentals.
  14. ^ An, Brian Y. (2023-06-05). "The Influence of Institutional Single-Family Rental Investors on Homeownership: Who Gets Targeted and Pushed Out of the Local Market?". Journal of Planning Education and Research: 0739456X2311760. doi:10.1177/0739456X231176072. ISSN 0739-456X.
  15. ^ Corinth, Kevin; Dante, Hugo (2022). "The Understated 'Housing Shortage' in the United States". SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.4178923. hdl:10419/263663. ISSN 1556-5068.
  16. ^ Kirby Wilkins, Jacqueline; Bates, James S.; Betz, Michael R.; Civittolo, David J.; Fox, Julie; Jones, Lauren E.; Porfeli, Erik J.; Powers-Barker, Patrice K.; Reister, Heather L.; Remley, Daniel T.; Wapner, Andrew (2023-01-02). "The 2022 State of Ohio Families: Challenges and Promises". Marriage & Family Review. 59 (1): 6–35. doi:10.1080/01494929.2022.2125480. ISSN 0149-4929.
  17. ^ Tebben, Susan (2022-01-17). "Youth homelessness remains a problem in Ohio". Ohio Capital Journal. Retrieved 2023-10-18.
  18. ^ Community Shelter Board. Analysis of National and Local Homelessness Data. Columbus, Ohio: CSB, 2023.
  19. ^ City of Columbus. Ordinance No. 1777-2018.
  20. ^ "Columbus City Council Addresses Aggressive Panhandling". Retrieved 2023-10-10.
  21. ^ "Poverty Stats 2017". Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. Retrieved 2023-10-10.
  22. ^ Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Human Services. Strategic Action Plan for Homelessness. Cleveland, Ohio: HHS, 2023.
  23. ^ Higgs, Robert (2017-06-20). "Cleveland seeks to dismiss ACLU suit following repeal of anti-panhandling laws". cleveland. Retrieved 2023-10-10.
  24. ^ Berger, Stacie (2022-03-24). "2021 Cincinnati Homelessness Data". Strategies to End Homelessness. Retrieved 2023-10-18.
  25. ^ "Preventing homelessness with data analysis? This collaboration plans to do it with a $2M city grant". WVXU. 2023-06-21. Retrieved 2023-10-18.
  26. ^ "Downtown Residents Council, Cincinnati, Ohio". Retrieved 2023-10-18.