Alliance Responds to the Release of the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report

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National Alliance to End Homelessness

Press Releases | July 9, 2009

Contact: Catherine An 202-942-8297; can@naeh.org

Alliance Responds to the Release of the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report
Minor increases in family and chronic homelessness suggest initial impacts of the recession

Today, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR). The AHAR showed that that the total number of people experiencing homelessness is flat, but rates of family and chronic homelessness have slightly risen. The AHAR is based on 2008 data.

“This data is the canary in the coal mine,” said Nan Roman, President of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “Homelessness rates had been decreasing in the last few years, so this represents an abrupt shift in direction. Moreover, homelessness is a lagging indicator of economic tides, so there is concern that this new information could foreshadow sharp increases in homelessness in the future.”

The influence of the economic downturn is particularly clear in the family homelessness data. Between 2005 and 2007 there was a 20 percent decrease in family homelessness. The AHAR data show an increase of roughly 0.3 percent. Moreover, the report shows that in 2008 – as compared to 2007 – more families came to homelessness from stable housing, and not “at-risk” situations. These new trends suggest that financial struggles were the reason behind homelessness for these families.

The changing rates of chronic homelessness showed a similar – and more pronounced – trajectory. Between 2005 and 2007, there was a nearly 30 percent decrease in chronic homelessness. This year’s AHAR report shows an increase in chronic homelessness of roughly one percent.

Roman concluded that while the outlook seems dour at present, the economic recovery act could prevent the predicted rise in homelessness.

“While it is likely that the recession will stop the progress that we have been making on homelessness and force more people to the brink, there is still hope,” said Roman. “Resources provided by the recovery act are just now being applied in communities across the nation. They are designed specifically to prevent homelessness, and there is hope that the threatened increase in homelessness can be averted.”

The AHAR is released annually by HUD, and the one released today includes data from one-night homelessness counts that were conducted by communities in January 2008 combined with administrative data collected throughout 2008.