Homelessness has decreased but more people are at risk

The Great Recession is over, the economy is bouncing back, and there are fewer people who are homeless in America. Yet, the number of people who are at risk of homelessness remains significantly higher than it was before the recession began.

This is according to The State of Homelessness in America 2016, which was released today by the National Alliance to End Homelessness. The report, which is the sixth in an annual series, tracks national and state progress toward ending homelessness. You can check out the full report here: www.endhomelessness.org/soh2016.


Analysis shows there are too many people at risk of homelessness

The report’s analysis of the most recent federal data on housing and homelessness shows concerning housing trends for those vulnerable to homelessness, including those who are in poverty and/or unemployed:

  • In 2014, 7 million poor people were doubled-up—i.e., living with family and friends—which is the most common last living situation of people who become homeless. This is 52 percent more people than were living doubled-up in 2007, the year prior to the recession.
  • Also in 2014, 6.6 million poor renter households spent more than half of their income for housing. This is an increase of 28 percent since 2007.

These trends likely are a result of housing that is becoming less affordable for low income people, and they seem to be a recipe for increasing homelessness. However, that is not the case. Although homelessness has increased in some areas, nationally the number of homeless people is decreasing:

  • On a single night in January 2015, 564,708 people were experiencing homelessness, which is 13 percent fewer people than in 2007.
  • The national rate of homelessness in 2014 was 18.3 homeless people per 10,000 people in the general population. In 2015, this rate fell to 17.7 homeless people per 10,000 people in the general population.
  • Nationally, there were fewer homeless people in every major subpopulation in 2015 than in 2014, including veterans, individuals, persons in families, and those experiencing chronic homelessness.

These decreases are likely due to the use of much more effective approaches to ending homelessness.

Homeless Assistance is Getting Better

Federal resources and local action have begun to focus much more on housing solutions designed to return people quickly to housing and linking them to services that can help stabilize them there. These solutions include both permanent supportive housing (subsidized housing with services attached) and rapid re-housing (deposits and short term subsidies plus services), which have grown:

  • Since 2007, permanent supportive housing capacity has increased by 69 percent nationwide.
  • Rapid re-housing capacity has grown by 204 percent since 2013.

The trends in State of Homelessness indicate that the nation and some states are getting better at responding to the homelessness crisis. However, rather than responding to homelessness, we must work to end it. The way to do that is to fill the nation’s 7 million unit gap in housing that is affordable and available to low income people. To address both the homelessness crisis and the affordable housing crisis, more federal resources are needed.

Find out what is happening in your state by exploring The State of Homelessness in America 2016 at www.endhomelessness.org/soh2016.