Considering that the U.S. homeownership rate has hit new lows, and that market rents have hit new highs, would you be surprised to learn that the number of homeless people in this country has actually declined?
It would appear to be so, as the latest data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) shows that there has been a 10% reduction in the unsheltered population since 2010 and a 25% drop since last year.
HUD says part of the reason for the drop in homelessness is the Obama Administration's Opening Doors program, which aims to prevent and end homelessness. The program was launched in 2010.
It should be noted, however, that the estimated reduction in the number of homeless is based on a single count taken on a single night in January of this year. The one-night estimate – which is derived from actual headcounts of homeless people as recorded by volunteers – shows that 578,424 people were homeless across the U.S. representing a 10% reduction from January 2010.
About 401,051 of these homeless persons (about 70%) were located in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs, while 177,373 were unsheltered.
The survey also revealed a 33% drop in homelessness among veterans, including a 43% reduction in unsheltered homelessness among veterans, since 2010 and a 10.5% decline since last year.
State and local communities also reported a 15% decline in the number of families with children experiencing homelessness since 2010, as well as a 53% reduction among these families who were found be to unsheltered, according to HUD.
‘As a nation, we are successfully reducing homelessness in this country, especially for those who have been living on our streets as a way of life,’ says JuliÃ¡n Castro, secretary of HUD, in a release. ‘There is still a tremendous amount of work ahead of us but it's clear our strategy is working and we're going to push forward till we end homelessness as we've come to know it.’
‘The federal government, in partnership with states, communities, and the private and not-for-profit sectors, is focused on widespread implementation of what works to end homelessness,’ adds Laura Green Zeilinger, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. ‘Continued investments in solutions like permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing using a Housing First approach is critical to the effort of every community to one day ensure homelessness is a rare, brief, and non-recurring experience.’
Although lack of employment opportunities, a decline in available public assistance, lack of affordable health care, domestic violence, mental illness and drug addiction are the main causes of homelessness, foreclosure actions are also a contributor. A 2009 report from the National Coalition for the Homeless shows that as many as 10% of the people who became homeless that year (which was the height of the housing crisis) ended up that way as a result of foreclosure.
To access HUD's 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, click here.