How are we helping people exit homelessness?

written by Sam Batko
July 1, 2014

Lately, in my posts, I’ve spent time discussing interesting findings from our State of Homelessness in 2014 report: the national rates of homelessness,  the scope of youth and veteran homelessness, and the relationship between economic factors and homelessness.

Today, I’ll spend some time highlighting findings from Chapter 3 of the report which focused on the capacity of the homeless assistance system. There are four bed categories funded by the federal government to assist households experiencing homelessness: emergency shelter, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, and rapid re-housing. Permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing are considered to be permanent housing destinations and people living in those beds are no longer considered homeless.

While permanent supportive housing currently accounts for a larger number of beds than other interventions, that has not always been the case. Nationally, the focus of homeless assistance has shifted to providing permanent supportive housing to the most vulnerable people experiencing chronic homelessness, and you can see that trend in the shift in the allocation of resources below. As of right now, rapid re-housing accounts for less than 20,000 beds of homeless assistance nationwide, but over the next few years, I’d expect those numbers to grow significantly.

Chapter 3 also looks at the utilization of homeless assistance resources:

  • There are 184,000 more people experiencing homelessness on a given night than there are emergency shelter and transitional housing beds available nationwide.
  • Around 100 percent of emergency shelter beds are full on a given night. 
  • Only 84 percent of transitional housing beds are full on a given night, despite a decrease in transitional housing capacity of 8 percent since 2011.

You can read more about the capacity and usage of the homeless assistance system in the full report.