People who are chronically homeless have experienced homelessness for at least a year – or repeatedly – while struggling with a disabling condition such as a serious mental illness, substance use disorder, or physical disability.
How Many People Experience Chronic Homelessness?
On a single night in January 2017:
- There were 86,962 homeless individuals who were considered chronically homeless. That is 24 percent of the total population of homeless individuals.
- Nearly 70 percent of chronically homeless individuals were living on the street, in a car, park or other location unfit for habitation.
- Since 2007, the number of individuals with patterns of chronic homelessness has declined 27 percent.
Why Is There Chronic Homelessness?
People experiencing chronic homelessness typically have complex and long-term health conditions, such as mental illness, substance use disorders, physical disabilities, or other medical conditions. Once they become homeless, it is difficult for them to get back into housing and they can experience long or repeated episodes.
Ending Chronic Homelessness
Permanent supportive housing is a proven solution to chronic homelessness. Permanent supportive housing pairs a housing subsidy with case management and supportive services and has been shown to not only help people experiencing chronic homelessness to achieve long-term housing stability, but also improve their health and well-being. Investments in permanent supportive housing have helped decrease the number of chronically homeless individuals by 27 percent since 2007. A cost-effective solution, permanent supportive housing has also been shown to lower public costs associated with the use of crisis services such as shelters, hospitals, jails, and prisons.
People experiencing chronic homelessness, who have one or more disabilities and who are disproportionately sleeping in unsheltered locations, are particularly vulnerable. Outreach and engagement to help this population enter low barrier shelters, and most importantly to connect to housing, are important for safety and health.