SAN JOSE TOPS the list of 100 major cities with the highest number of homeless young adults per capita, highlighting a growing crisis in the region.

In the heart of Silicon Valley, there are nearly 85 homeless residents who are between 18 and 24 years old for every 100,000 residents, landing San Jose in the No. 1 spot across the United States. The study, conducted by United Way of the National Capital Area, analyzed data from the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 100 major cities in the nation. The study was published late January.

The study also reveals the problem in San Jose is particularly dire. The city has nearly 50 more young persons experiencing homelessness per capita than the second-highest city on the list, New York City, which has roughly 36 homeless young residents for every 100,000 people. Los Angeles lands in the No. 3 spot, with 32 homeless young adults per 100,000 residents.

“(This is) highlighting the need for more effective solutions to address youth homelessness in this area, particularly for young people of color,” the study said, pointing to the need for more affordable housing, homeless services and policies that address systemic barriers.

A map showing the rate of homeless young adults per capita in the U.S. (Courtesy of United Way)

San Jose has seen its homeless population explode in the past decade, with more than 6,650 people living on the streets as of 2022. The city is waiting on the latest count after several hundred volunteers conducted a new tally earlier this year.

According to data from last year, 28 percent of San Jose homeless residents ages 18-24 experienced homelessness for the first time. That’s doubled since 2017.

Santa Clara County’s Office of Supportive Housing Director Consuelo Hernandez didn’t respond in time for publication.

Scott Myers-Lipton, a San Jose State University sociology professor, said the findings are not shocking. A 2021 fall semester survey by SJSU Cares showed 11.2 percent of students, or 624 of the 5,680 respondents, experienced homelessness at some point in the year.

“This has been a crisis for years,” Myers-Lipton told San José Spotlight, adding SJSU has not done enough to address the issues. “At SJSU, it’s like pulling teeth to get them to implement the agreement to provide emergency beds.”

A copy of a chart showing when people first experienced homelessness. (Courtesy of San Jose)

Myers-Lipton has worked with the homeless student coalition on campus to advocate for more resources. The biggest challenges for his students are the high cost of living and rent in San Jose, he said.

“If the rent is $3,100 per apartment, and you’re making minimum wage at $17 an hour, how do you afford that?” Myers-Lipton said. “I have had students tell me that they sometimes have eight people in one apartment. This is a structural issue and it’s a shame.”

He said the city could also help address the issue by raising its minimum wage to at least match the rate in Mountain View at $18.15 an hour.

“Is that going to solve the problem? No, but that’s an extra $2,000 a year,” he said.

Pushed into homelessness

Robert Aguirre, a former unhoused resident turned advocate, said the issue is nothing new in San Jose. As the wealth gap in the region continues to grow, more young people are being pushed into homelessness even if they work full time, he said. The region also doesn’t have many resources for young people.

“There is very little that’s being done to target that particular population,” Aguirre told San José Spotlight. “There’s certainly a focus on veterans, the elderly, disabled people and children. Except for the Bill Wilson Center, there really isn’t a whole lot going on.”

In San Jose, officials are racing to build housing and offer resources for young adults. The city, in partnership with the Bill Wilson Center, is working to transform the Pavilion Inn hotel on Fourth Street into 39 apartments for people between the ages of 18 and 25. City officials also voted to help fund a new affordable housing project at 1510-1540 Parkmoor Ave. that will have 40 apartments for young adults. But those projects won’t be finished until at least 2024.

Anthony Majano, president of the Student Homeless Alliance at San Jose State University, said many of his peers have moved away from San Jose because of high rents. He said the city and the state could do more to help young adults from falling into homelessness by bolstering tenants’ rights and rent controls.

“We don’t have a right to counsel here in San Jose, and we don’t have much other resources or assistance to help us,” Majano told San José Spotlight. “We’re incredibly vulnerable to the high cost of living here.”

Contact Tran Nguyen at or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.

This story originally appeared in San Jose Spotlight.