One a single night of this year, 564,708 people were experiencing homelessness in across the country. This is according to the 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (AHAR) Part 1, which was released today by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This report provides data aggregated from community point-in-time counts conducted in January and includes longitudinal trends in overall homelessness and among specific subpopulations.
So how are we doing in our efforts to end homelessness? Overall homelessness has decreased by 11.4 percent since 2010, when the Administration set ambitious goals to end veteran and chronic homelessness in five years and family and youth homelessness in 10 years. And, we have seen substantial decreases in veteran, chronic, and family homelessness in that same time period:
- Veteran homelessness decreased 35.6 percent;
- Chronic homelessness decreased 21.6 percent; and
- The number of homeless families decreased 19.2 percent.
Though we always hope to see large decreases from year to year, from 2014 to 2015, overall homelessness remained mostly unchanged, decreasing by just 2 percent. This is still particularly notable given that, in the wake of the recession, rents are rising and incomes are failing to keep pace.
Unlike the Part 2 of the 2014 AHAR, which was released earlier this month, the data in this report provides a snapshot of homelessness with information collected during Point-in-Time (PIT) Counts. HUD requires every community to conduct a yearly count of people staying in shelters or other homeless programs. On odd-numbered years, such as 2015, communities are also required to count unsheltered homeless persons, too (though the vast majority of communities choose to conduct annual unsheltered counts).
The PIT Count is a valuable tool. Over the years, if the methodology remains relatively consistent, this measure allows us to understand local, state, and national trends in homelessness. Though the count cannot capture every homeless person and does not capture those who are at risk of homelessness, it is a critical part of assessing how we are doing in the effort to end homelessness.
Here is a point-in-time snapshot of the data on some of the homeless sub-populations detailed in today’s report:
- 30.7 percent (or 173,268 people) of the total homeless population was living in an unsheltered location.
- 47,725 veterans were experiencing homelessness, about a third of whom were unsheltered (a smaller proportion than in previous years).
- 83,170 individuals were experiencing chronic homelessness.
- 206,286 people in 64,197 family households were experiencing homelessness, which is a 14.7 percent decrease in homeless people in families since 2010.
- 36,907 unaccompanied youth and children were identified as experiencing homelessness, approximately half of whom were unsheltered.
Ending homelessness is an ambitious, but achievable national goal. As such, it’s one that only can be addressed with federal support for proven, evidence-based solutions to homelessness. The HUD data released today show that, in an economy marked by increasing housing costs, diminishing affordable housing stock, and stagnant wages for low-income workers, communities around the country have nevertheless managed to reduce homelessness, if only slightly.