Chronic Homelessness: Policy Solutions

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National Alliance to End Homelessness

Federal Policy Brief | March 18, 2010

Files: PDF | 260 KB | 4 pages

Nearly 10 years ago, the federal government made a commitment to end chronic homelessness. Since then, a great deal of progress has been made on that goal, much of it due to incentives and directives from the federal government, and much of it due to the benefits of reducing chronic homelessness. This brief examines:

  • Who experiences chronic homelessness;
  • The progress made in reducing chronic homelessness;
  • Federal policies and local practices that contributed to that progress; and
  • What policymakers can do to finish the job of ending chronic homelessness in the United States.

Chronically homeless people have disabilities, including serious mental illness, chronic substance use disorders, or chronic medical issues, and are homeless repeatedly or for long periods of time. They often cycle in and out of homeless shelters, jails, hospitals, and treatment programs. The most recent available data shows that there are approximately 124,000 chronically homeless individuals in the United States.

However, chronic homelessness fell 28 percent nationally between 2005 and 2008, with some communities witnessing even steeper declines. These declines were achieved through the use of three main strategies:
  • Permanent supportive housing
  • Prevention
  • Targeting

As the chart below demonstrates, the use of permanent supportive housing has been shown to be cost-effective, resulting in reductions in the use of shelter, ambulance, police/jail, health care, emergency room, behavior health, and other service costs.


This brief also makes recommendations about how Congress and the Administration can help finish the job of ending chronic homelessness:

  • Increase funding for HUD's homeless assistance programs
  • Coordinate housing and services
  • Lower barriers to subsidized housing programs
  • Improve Medicaid
  • Create simple renewable SAMHSA funding for services in permanent supportive housing
  • Improve services for veterans

Click here to download the full brief.

Click here to access an interactive chart on the cost savings involved with the use of permanent supportive housing.