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New Evidence Reveals Mixed Trends on Homelessness in America

Sheltered Homeless Population Continues to Decline While Unsheltered Homeless Population Increased, Especially in Major Cities

The number of people experiencing homelessness in shelters continues to decline, although the proportion of older and disabled Americans in this group increased.

However, the number of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness significantly increased in major cities.

These findings are a few of many in the newly released Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (AHAR), a two-part report created on behalf of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Abt Global has led these reports since 2007.
AHAR Part 1 examines data collected during a single night in January across the U.S., sharing sheltered and unsheltered counts at the national, state, and local levels.

AHAR Part 2  features a longer, one-year look at national sheltered homelessness collected via local data systems managed by Continuums of Care (CoC). These local planning bodies coordinate funding to projects that offer housing and services for homeless families and individuals.

The combined AHAR reports offer an important lens for examining homelessness and patterns of homelessness at national, state and local levels.

Growing Number of Disabled, Elderly Experiencing Sheltered Homelessness; Veteran Population Continues Decline

“AHAR Part 2 reveals the number and characteristics of people who experienced homelessness throughout the course of a year in emergency shelters and transitional housing programs in the U.S. and trends over time,” said Claudia Solari, Ph.D., Abt associate/scientist and AHAR Part 2 project director.

“The reports show that progress in reducing homelessness can be and has been made,” Solari said.

Findings from 2016 Part 2 include:

  • More than 1.42 million people, or the approximate population of San Antonio, Texas, experienced sheltered homelessness in 2016. This is a 4.3 percent decrease from the 1.48 million people in 2015. Since 2007, sheltered homelessness has declined by 10.5 percent.
  • Between 2015 and 2016, sheltered homelessness among veterans decreased by 6.1 percent. This is the largest one-year percentage decline since reporting for veterans began in 2009.
  • The proportion of people at least 62 years old in emergency shelter and transitional housing projects grew to 5 percent in 2016, up from 3.2 percent in 2007. Likewise, the proportion of people in shelter aged 51 to 61 years old increased to 17.7 percent in 2016, up from 13.6 percent in 2007.
  • Adults with disabilities were four times more likely to experience sheltered homelessness than were adults without disabilities in 2016 – one in 85 adults with disabilities experienced sheltered homelessness, compared to one in 344 adults without disabilities.

Read the full AHAR Part 2 report.


One-Night Estimates Reveal First Increase in Homelessness in 7 Years – But a Slight One

The new AHAR Part 1 provides estimates on the number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2017. The report provides detail on the demographics of the homeless population, examines trends over time, and provides estimates at the national, state and local level.

For the first time in seven years, homelessness increased nationwide. In 2017, 553,742 people experienced homelessness on a given night, compared with 549,928 people in 2016, an increase of less than one percent.

The growth was driven by the 86,962 people experiencing chronic patterns of homelessness, an increase of 12 percent in this chronic population since 2016.

“This spike in the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness was centered in unsheltered locations in the nation’s largest cities,” said Meghan Henry, AHAR Part 1 project director and an associate/scientist at Abt. “In particular, Los Angeles experienced a 26 percent increase in the number of unsheltered homeless people in a single year.”

Other findings from the January 2017 one-night count include:

  • Homelessness among veterans grew 1.5 percent in the last year, in contrast to the overall decrease of 45 percent since 2009, when veteran data collection began.
  • In January 2017, 184,661 people in families with children experienced homelessness – 5.4 percent fewer than in January 2016.

Read the full AHAR Part 1 report.

Learn more about Abt’s work in homelessness prevention.

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