Thoughts on the 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report

written by naehblog
June 16, 2010

Big, big news. (It’s been a big news week).

Aside from the now-announced but still-anticipated release of the federal strategic plan to end homelessness – called Opening Doors – there’s even more news to digest!

Today, the Department of Housing and Urban Development released the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR).

And it’s pretty wild.

Headlining the report is the fact that homelessness is marginally down. Despite the worst recession this country has seen since the Depression, we’ve managed to avoid an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness. That may seem like a little thing, but persistent unemployment rate and the erosion of housing affordability we talked about on Monday, it’s a pretty great thing.

Among the highlight is a ten percent reduction in chronic homelessness(!!). There’s little doubt that the hard work of communities to implement housing-based strategies and prevention practices was key in that that reduction. For decades, the Alliance has lead the way analyzing research and best practices around chronic homelessness – and we’re so excited to see the results!

Such speculation is only further validated by the dramatic shift in the inventory of shelters beds in the United States. For years, emergency shelter and transitional housing beds dominated the supply. This is the first year that permanent supportive housing beds have topped the charts – and we hardly think it’s a coincidence.

But the news isn’t all good. As was noted this morning in the papers, there was a slight increase in the number of families seeking shelter this year.

And we think it has a lot to do with the recession. As job losses hit families, we imagine that they’re moving through their available resources and then finding themselves in shelter. In fact, our ownDoubled Up report indicates that more families are staying with others as they work their way through financial hardships. This is the first AHAR that gives us an indication of what’s happened as a result of the recession – and it looks like families are being hit pretty hard.

That being said, it’s still a waiting game. As Nan’s pointed out before, “homelessness is a lagging economic indicator” and we haven’t even begun to see the effects of the federal Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program.

So keep those fingers crossed. But in the meantime, take a look at the full report.