According to its latest national homeless assessment, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reports the number of homeless persons in the U.S. held steady between 2009 and 2010, despite the economic downturn. For the first time, HUD’s annual report reveals how the Recovery Act’s Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) helped to mitigate homelessness in America, assisting nearly 700,000 persons in the first year of the program.
Based on data collected from thousands of local communities, HUD’s 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress finds a continued decline in the number of persons experiencing long-term homelessness due to the dramatic increase in the number of permanent supportive housing units. Those who were chronically homeless—persons with severe disabilities and long homeless histories—decreased one percent between 2009 and 2010, from 110,917 to 109,920. Since 2007, the number of people who are chronically homelessness has decreased by 11 percent, partially due to the number of 34 percent increase in permanent supportive housing beds during that same timeframe.
Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program– Approximately 690,000 people received assistance in the first year of the HPRP including 531,000 (77 percent) individuals who were prevented from becoming homeless in the first place. The remaining 159,000 (23 percent) persons received ‘rapid re-housing’ assistance to move from the streets or shelters into permanent housing.
Most HPRP participants (59 percent) received assistance for two months or less. Participants receiving homelessness prevention assistance had slightly longer lengths of participation than persons receiving rapid re-housing assistance because prevention assistance was more likely to be provided on a recurring basis, while rapid re-housing was more likely to be one-time assistance – such as a security deposit.
HUD’s annual assessment is based on two measures of homelessness:
• Point-In-Time ‘Snapshot’ Counts – these data account for sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons on a single night, usually at the end of January. The number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night increased by 1.1 percent over the last year: from 643,067 in January 2009 to 649,879 in January 2010. A total of 79,344 family households, and 241,621 persons in families, were homeless on the night of the 2010 PIT count. Since 2009, the number of homeless families increased 1.1 percent, and the number of homeless persons in families increased 1.5 percent
• 12-Month Counts –Using Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS),these data provide more detailed information on persons who access a shelter over the course of a full year. In 2010, 411 communities covering over 4,700 cities and counties submitted useable HMIS data resulting in a 23 percent increase from 2009. This increase results in more precise results as HMIS data collection and reporting capacities continue to improve. HUD estimates that 1.6 million persons experienced homelessness and found shelter between October 1, 2009 and September 30, 2010, a 2.2 percent increase from 2009. The characteristics of sheltered homeless individuals are very different from the characteristics of sheltered persons in families. Individuals are more likely to be white men, over 30 years old, and have a disabling condition, while adults in families are more likely to be younger African-American women without a reported disability. Of all those who sought emergency shelter or transitional housing during 2010, the following characteristics were observed:
• 78 percent of all sheltered homeless persons are adults.
• 62 percent are male.
• 58 percent are members of a minority group.
• 37 percent are 31-to-50 years old.
• 63 percent are in one-person households.
• 37 percent have a disability.
HUD’s report also reveals the following trends:
• Since 2007, the annual number of people using homeless shelters in principal cities has decreased 17 percent (from 1.2 million to 1.0 million), and the annual number of people using homeless shelters in suburban and rural areas has increased 57 percent (from 367,000 to 576,000).
• The number of homeless persons in families has increased by 20 percent from 2007 to 2010, and families currently represent a much larger share of the total sheltered population than ever before. The proportion of homeless people who are using emergency shelter and transitional housing as part of a family has increased from 30 percent to 35 percent during this same period. The increase in sheltered family homelessness is almost certainly a consequence of the economy.
• Despite increases over the past year, there has been overall a 3.3 percent decline in the number of homeless persons from 2007 to 2010: a 3.6 percent decline for individuals and a 2.8 percent decline for persons in families. The overall decline in homelessness during this period can be attributed to a steep drop in homelessness in Los Angeles between 2007 and 2009.
• There were almost 94,000 more sheltered homeless persons in families in 2010 as there were in 2007, and almost 72,000 fewer sheltered homeless individuals. The number of sheltered homeless individuals has declined six percent since 2007, from 1.15 million to 1.04 million.