Washington, D.C. -- On a single night last January, 636,017 people were homeless in the United States, a 2.1 percent decline from the year before. That’s the key finding of a new count on homelessness announced today by U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. Donovan made the announcement at a meeting of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness where he was joined by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.
HUD’s annual “point in time” estimate of the number of homeless persons and families is based on data reported by more than 3,000 cities and counties. While number of homeless persons vary from community-, these communities are reporting modest declines in homelessness in every category or subpopulation including individuals, families, veterans and those experiencing long-term or chronic homelessness.
Donovan, who personally participated in the 2011 nighttime count said, “It’s remarkable that in the wake of the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression, we’re witnessing an across-the-board drop in homelessness. This tells us that the Obama Administration’s homelessness strategy is working and the results spur us to continue working to end homelessness in America once and for all.”
“These numbers are a step in the right direction, especially for some of our more vulnerable populations such as veterans,” said Secretary Solis, who served as chair of the Interagency Council in 2011. “With many working families continuing to struggle, the President’s plan will allow us to redouble our efforts to end and prevent homelessness.”
“Reducing homelessness among Veterans by 12 percent since January 2010 is a clear sign of progress, but our work is not complete until no Veteran has to sleep on the street,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We have been successful in achieving this milestone due to strong leadership from the President and hard work by countless community organizations and our federal, state, and local partners who are committed to helping Veterans and their families get back on their feet.”
During one night in late January of 2011, local planners or “Continuums of Care” across the nation conducted a one-night count of their sheltered and unsheltered homeless populations. These one-night ‘snapshot’ counts are then reported to HUD as part of state and local grant applications. While the data reported to HUD does not directly determine the level of a community’s grant funding, these estimates, as well as full-year counts to be released later next year, are crucial in understanding the scope of homelessness and measuring progress in reducing it.
The Obama Administration’s strategic plan to end homelessness is called Opening Doors – a roadmap by 19 federal member agencies of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness along with local and state partners in the public and private sectors. The plan puts the country on a path to end veterans and chronic homelessness by 2015; and to ending homelessness among children, family, and youth by 2020. The Plan presents strategies building upon the lesson that mainstream housing, health, education, and human service programs must be fully engaged and coordinated to prevent and end homelessness.
“Over the last 18 months, we’ve seen unprecedented levels of collaboration within the federal government,” said U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness Executive Director Barbara Poppe. “The federal government is partnering more effectively with states and local communities across the nation to align our efforts to make progress on the goals of Opening Doors.”
The reductions reported today are attributed in part to the impact of HUD’s $1.5 billion Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP), a program designed to assist individuals and families confronted by a sudden economic crisis. Funded through the Recovery Act, HPRP spared more than one million persons from homelessness by offering them short-term rent assistance, security and utility deposits, and moving expenses. The US Conference of Mayors has described HPRP as “fundamentally changing” the way communities respond to homelessness.
In addition, HUD and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are collaborating on a joint program called HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH). To date, this targeted rental assistance program provided more than 33,000 homeless veterans permanent supportive housing through rental vouchers provided by HUD along with supportive services and case management by VA. The national estimate announced today reveal a particularly large decrease in the number of homeless veterans – nearly 12 percent.
Key Findings of HUD’s estimate:
On a single night in January 2011, HUD and its partners found:
Ø 636,017 people were homeless, a reduction of 2.1 percent (649,917) from January 2010, and 5.3 percent (671,888) since 2007.
Ø Veteran homelessness fell by nearly 12 percent (or 8,834 persons) since January 2010.
Ø Homelessness among individuals declined 2 percent (or 13,900) from a year ago and 5.6 percent since 2007. Meanwhile, the number of homeless families fell 2.8 percent from last year and 8 percent since 2007
Ø Street homelessness (“the unsheltered homeless population) declined by 13 percent (or 36,786 people) since 2007.
Ø Persons experiencing long-term or chronic homelessness declined 2.4 percent (or 2,664) from last year and 13.5 percent (or 16,635 persons) since 2007. This steep reduction in chronic homelessness is largely attributed to the sharp growth in the supply of permanent supportive housing units – more than 30,000 beds between 2010 and 2011, and by more than 83,000 since 2007.
Ø Five states accounted for half of the nation’s total homeless population: California (21.4 percent); New York (10 percent); Florida (8.9 percent); Texas (5.8 percent); and Georgia (3.3 percent).
Read HUD’s 2011 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness, including community-level data.
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