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Studying National Trends in Homelessness


  • Developing reliable statistics on homelessness in the U.S. is difficult.
  • Abt collected data and refined the Annual Homeless Assessment Report.
  • We developed national data and technical standards for future use.
The Challenge

Developing reliable statistics on the extent of homelessness in the U.S. is a hard task. The homeless move locations. Their status can change rapidly. And the mental state of some makes them reluctant to cooperate with surveys.   

The Approach

Since 2002, Abt has worked with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to collect data and refine the processes for the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR). The AHAR uses data from Community Point-in-Time (PIT) counts of homeless people and from local Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS). The PIT data estimate people who experience homelessness one night in January. The HMIS data provide information about people who are in a homeless shelter at some time during a year. 

The Results

Under the initial contract, Abt developed national data and technical standards for local HMIS and identified a nationally representative sample of communities to participate. Under later contracts, Abt:  

  • Updated the national data and technical standards for HMIS. 
  • Collected and analyzed data from more than 300 communities nationwide. 
  • Reported on the first year of the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program. 
  • Released two separate AHAR volumes each year, providing analyses of trend information at the national, state, and local levels. 

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