Report | May 27, 2014
This is an excerpt from the report. To download the full report, please use the link above.
The State of Homelessness in America 2014 is the fourth in a series of reports that chart progress in ending homelessness in the United States. It examines trends in homelessness between 2012 and 2013, trends in populations at-risk of homelessness from 2011 to 2012, trends in assistance available to persons experiencing homelessness, and establishes a baseline from which to measure changes in the homeless assistance system enacted by the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act.
This report is intended to be a desktop reference for policymakers, journalists, and community and state leaders. Chapter 1 presents national and state trends in homeless populations. Chapter 2 examines trends in populations at-risk of homelessness. Chapter 3 analyzes beds available to homeless persons and usage of those resources, and establishes a baseline from which to examine shifts from transitional housing to rapid re-housing and permanent supportive housing. This report uses the most recently available data from a variety of sources: the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Census Bureau, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
On a single night in January 2013, 610,042 people were experiencing homelessness. From 2012 to 2013, a period of continued slow recovery from the Great Recession, overall homelessness decreased by 3.7 percent and homelessness decreased among every major subpopulation—families (7 percent), chronically homeless individuals (7.3 percent), and veterans (7.3 percent). But nationwide trends do not tell the full story:
31 states saw a decrease in homelessness, while 20 states saw increases in overall homelessness.
The national rate of homelessness fell to 19 homeless persons per 10 ,000 people in the general population, but the rate in individual states ranged from 106 in Washington, DC to 8 in Mississippi.
The rate of veteran homelessness fell to 27 homeless veterans per 10,000 veterans in the general population, but the rate in individual states ranged from 28 in Wyoming to 156 in Washington, DC.
Populations at Risk of Homelessness
Homelessness is often described as a “lagging indicator,” meaning it takes time for economic and housing trends to impact trends in homelessness. Examining the trends in populations that would seem to be at particular risk of homelessness may be valuable in anticipating future needs for housing and homelessness assistance. Nationally, unemployment decreased significantly, but trends in the size of other at-risk populations did not improve simultaneously. Additionally, there was great variation among the states:
Nationally, the number of people in poverty increased slightly, by 0.6 percent with 24 states experiencing an increase.
The poverty rate remained unchanged at 15.9 percent, but the rate in individual states ranged from 10 percent in New Hampshire to 24 percent in Mississippi.
Unemployment decreased 9.6 percent nationally and in all but four states from 2011 to 2012 and the unemployment rate ranged state by state from 3 percent in North Dakota to 11 percent in Nevada.
The number of poor rental households experiencing severe housing cost burden, meaning households in poverty paying more than 50 percent of their income toward housing, increased slightly nationally, by 0.7 percent. Yet, 25 states still saw decreases.
The number of people in poor households living doubled up with family and friends remained relatively stable nationally, decreasing in 27 states and increasing in 24 states.
Homeless Assistance System
The HEARTH Act, passed in 2009, placed a greater emphasis on permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing, and those changes began to be seen in 2013.
The number of permanent supportive housing beds increased nationally from 2012 to 2013 by 9,512 units (3.5 percent). 43 states saw an increase, and 8 states saw a decrease.
Emergency shelter beds increased by 9,502 beds (4 percent), part of a larger increase of 13 percent seen from 2007 to 2013. 34 states increased capacity, 16 states decreased capacity.
Transitional housing beds decreased 6 percent, or by 11,798 beds. 16 states increased transitional housing capacity while 34 states decreased capacity.
For the first time, rapid re-housing was differentiated from transitional housing, and a baseline of 19,847 units of r apid re-housing was recorded in 20 13, representing 2.7 percent of the total bed inventory in the country.
Washington State had the highest concentration of rapid re-housing beds, representing 13.9 percent of its total bed inventory.
Nationwide emergency shelter usage has been steady at close to 100 percent from 2007 to 2013. Transitional housing usage is lower, fluctuating between 83 and 89 percent between 2007 and 2013.
Homelessness is decreasing. And, shifts in the way communities respond to homelessness have primed the country to make great strides in ending homeles s nationally. Targeted federal funding to end homelessness is at its highest level in history—HUD’s homeless assistance grants were funded at $2.1 billion and HUD received $75 million for approximately 10,000 new joint HUD-VA supportive housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers targeted toward chronically homeless veterans. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) received $300 million in funding for rapid re-housing and homelessness prevention for veterans in the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program and $278 million for the HUD-VASH program in FY 2014.
Despite this progress, challenges remain. The overall economy is starting to recover, but this improvement does not appear to be penetrating lower-income populations. The pool of people at risk of homeles sness, those in poverty, those living with friends and family, and those paying over half of their income for housing, has remained high despite improvements in unemployment and the overall economy.
The homeless assistance system has decreased homelessness by increasing the flow of people experiencing homelessness into permanent housing, but without a decrease in the number of people who become homeless, the homeless assistance system will continue to manage large numbers of households who are simply unable to afford housing in their communities. The lack of affordable housing cannot be overcome by the homeless assistance system. Communities, states, and the federal government need to invest in affordable housing so that households are able to obtain and maintain housing independently in their own community.