National Alliance to End Homelessness Responds to Increased Shelter Use Among Families,  Reductions

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Press Releases | June 16, 2010

June 16, 2010

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

National Alliance to End Homelessness Responds to Increased Shelter Use Among Families, Reductions in Homelessness Among Individuals

Economic circumstances driving increase in families seeking shelter; Modest declines among individuals demonstrate triumph of housing-based solutions

Washington, DC – According to the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) released today by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, levels of homelessness in the United States stayed essentially the same between 2008 and 2009. The AHAR – which is based on data collected in 2009 - showed a ten percent reduction among people experiencing chronic homelessness, but a rise in the number of families seeking shelter.

“Despite the worst recession this country has seen since the Depression, this report shows that, nationally, we were able to avoid massive increases in homelessness – at least through last fall. There’s little question that the hard work of communities implementing housing-based strategies played a key role” said Nan Roman, President of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “But the rise in family shelter use is a clear indication that the recession is having an effect on vulnerable households. We are deeply concerned that it foreshadows increases in homelessness in the future.”

The majority of families that become homeless do so after first doubling up with family or friends, and the AHAR found the percentage of such families had increased. The Alliance analyzed the number of doubled up households in its recent report, Economy Bytes: Doubled Up, and found that they had increased 8.5 percent between 2007 and 2008. This leads to concern about increased family homelessness in the future, as unstable doubled up situations eventually become untenable.

The report offers more positive news with respect to homeless individuals. Between 2008 and 2009, chronic homelessness decreased by 10 percent. The decrease corresponds to an increase in permanent supportive housing units, which are the solution to homelessness for this group. The supply of permanent supportive housing units, long promoted by the Alliance as part of a housing-based approach to homelessness, increased from 195,724 in 2008 to 219,381 in 2009.

At this point, what remains to be seen is the full impact of the recession on homelessness. “While this year’s report captured the initial effects of the recession, we have yet to see to full impact of the economy on homelessness,” said Roman. “The outcomes of persistent unemployment and increasing poverty are likely to drive the numbers up, while the availability of new tools and resources such as the federal Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) will help communities to stem the tide. The AHAR shows that we can forestall recession-related increases if we focus on solutions – the chronic homelessness reductions prove that. But ultimately, an improved economy and reduced unemployment are what we need to make progress on the goal of ending homelessness.”

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