What Does the New AHAR Report Tells Us About Family Homelessness?

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) Part 1 for 2022 on December 19.

This report documents the number and characteristics of those experiencing homelessness on one night in January 2022. The one day Point-in-Time (PIT) Count snapshot would not be possible without the commitment of tens of thousands of volunteer hours in the wee winter hours spent looking for people residing in cars, parks, and wooded areas to ensure those living without shelter are counted. Without their effort, the extent of unsheltered homelessness would not be known. (Localities are gearing up to do it yet again in a few short weeks – so consider joining them!)

What Did We Learn from the 2022 PIT About Family Homelessness?

Overall, there were 50,767 families experiencing homelessness on the night of the PIT Count, comprising more than 161,000 persons in families. This represents a 5.5 percent decline since 2020 and a reduction of 36 percent since 2010.

The number of unsheltered families increased between 2020 and 2022. Ten percent of families experiencing homelessness on the night of the 2022 PIT Count were unsheltered. Nearly 40 percent of all unsheltered families were identified as living in rural areas.

Black families continue to be overrepresented in the family homeless service system. Half of all people in families experiencing homelessness identified as Black, African, or African American on the night of the PIT. For comparison, just 14 percent of all people in U.S. families identify as Black.

While family homelessness declined or remained the same for most groups, it increased most sharply for those who are Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Homelessness also increased for Native American families by about 7% and about 14% for Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. It declined/stayed same for pretty much all others.

What Does the Housing Inventory Count Tell Us?

Accompanying the release of the PIT Count is an update to the Housing Inventory Count (HIC). The HIC report provides Continuum of Care (CoC) and state-level data on the temporary and permanent housing resources dedicated to assisting people experiencing homelessness.

Overall, there were 59,967 family units of emergency shelter or transitional housing to assist the 50,767 families experiencing homelessness on the night of the PIT Count. This represents an overall national capacity to assist 118% of the families experiencing homelessness on the night of the PIT Count.

Across (and within) states there is great variation in temporary (i.e., emergency shelter and transitional) housing capacity to accommodate families. Most states have more emergency shelter and transitional housing for families than they have families experiencing homelessness. Even with a seeming surplus of temporary housing resources, some states have unsheltered families. This may represent units that are geographically inaccessible to families (including the unsheltered families experiencing homelessness in rural parts of the state) while some temporary housing programs may be inaccessible (or undesirable) to families due to programmatic or entry requirements.

Looking Ahead

The PIT Count and HIC data are useful tools for CoCs and states to analyze their performance in responding to family homelessness. The HIC data may point to the need to expand temporary housing capacity or reassess programmatic rules that programs are deploying to better assist unsheltered families. The HIC and PIT data may also lead to an exploration as to whether a surplus of temporary housing resources for families could be better deployed: for permanent housing or to assist other populations with high rates of unsheltered homelessness.

The HIC and PIT Count can also allow states and localities to measure how they are using permanent housing resources to assist families experiencing homelessness. Communities can examine their data relative to other jurisdictions and whether an increased investment may yield better outcomes for families.

The Alliance is working to develop a resource tool for states and localities to examine this data. We hope it will be useful for your state and local advocacy to improve resources and outcomes for families experiencing homelessness.