The State of Homelessness in America 2015

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Report | April 1, 2015

Files: The State of Homelessness in America 2015 (PDF | 9.25 MB | 82 pages) State of Homelessness in America 2015 - Executive Summary (PDF | 601 KB | 7 pages) State of Homelessness in America 2015 - Chapter 1 (PDF | 3.73 MB | 30 pages) State of Homelessness in America 2015 - Chapter 2 (PDF | 2.69 MB | 18 pages) State of Homelessness in America 2015 - Chapter 3 (PDF | 2.17 MB | 22 pages)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The State of Homelessness in America 2015 is the fifth in a series of reports that chart progress in ending homelessness in the United States. It uses the most recently available data to present national and state trends in homelessness between 2013 and 2014, trends in populations at risk of homelessness from 2012 to 2013, and trends in the types and utilization of assistance available to people experiencing homelessness.

REPORT CONTENTS

This report is intended to serve as a desktop reference for policymakers, journalists, and community and state leaders. Chapter 1 details national and state trends in the overall homeless population and subpopulations, including individuals, families, and veterans. Chapter 1 presents national and state data on youth homlessness for 2014, changes in youth homelessness from 2013 to 2014 are not presented as the data is considered less complete than data in other categories. Chapter 2 presents trends in populations at-risk of homelessness, including households experiencing severe housing cost burden and people living doubled up with family and friends. Chapter 3 analyzes the types and scope of assistance available to people experiencing homelessness and utilization of those resources. This report uses the most recently available data from a variety of sources: the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Census Bureau, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

REPORT HIGHLIGHTS

HOMELESSNESS

On a single night in January 2014, 578,424 people were experiencing homelessness — meaning they were sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. From 2013 to 2014, a period of ongoing recovery from the Great Recession, overall homelessness decreased by 2.3 percent and homelessness decreased among every major subpopulation: unsheltered persons (10 percent), families (2.7 percent), chronically homeless individuals (2.5 percent), and veterans (10.5 percent).

  • 34 states had decrease in overall homelessness, while 17 states saw increases. 40 states had decreases in the number of people living in unsheltered locations, including the street, cars, and abandoned buildings.
  • The national rate of homelessness fell to 18.3 homeless people per 10,000 people in the general population, but the rate in individual states ranged from 120 in Washington, D.C. to 7 in Mississippi.
  • The rate of veteran homelessness continued its descent of the past several years to 25.5 homeless veterans per 10,000 veterans in the general population, but the rate in individual states ranged from 146 in Washington, D.C. to 9 in Virginia.
  • The majority of states had decreases in every major subpopulation: family homelessness (32 states), chronically homeless individuals (27 states), and veteran homelessness (28 states).

POPULATIONS AT RISK OF HOMELESSNESS

Many poor people are at risk of homelessness. Ultimately, this is because it is hard for them to afford housing. Unemployment, housing cost burden, and living doubled up are indications of this struggle to afford housing. Longitudinal trends and changes from 2012 to 2013 indicate populations at risk of homelessness may not be experiencing the benefits of the economic recovery.

  • The number of unemployed people fell 8.4 percent and the unemployment rate continued its multi-year decline, falling to 7.4 percent. Nearly all states saw decreases in the number of people unemployed, with only 6 states seeing modest increases in the number of unemployed people.
  • Despite improvements in employment, the number of people in poverty (4.8 million) and the poverty rate (15.8 percent) remained relatively steady. 26 states saw an increase in the number of people in poverty; 25 saw a decrease.
  • The number of people in poor households living doubled up with family and friends grew to 7.7 million people, an increase of 3.7 percent from 2012 to 2013, with 39 states seeing increases. Since 2007, the number of people living doubled up has increased 67 percent.
  • The number of poor renter households experiencing severe housing cost burden, those households in poverty paying more than 50 percent of their income toward housing, total 6.4 million in 2013, decreasing by 2.8 percent nationally from 2013 with 37 states seeing a decrease. Since 2007, the number of poor households with severe housing cost burden has increased 25 percent.

HOMELESS ASSISTANCE SYSTEM

Communities across the country respond to homelessness with a variety of programs: emergency shelters, transitional housing, rapid re-housing, and permanent supportive housing. The HEARTH Act, passed in 2009, placed a greater emphasis on permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing as permanent housing solutions to homelessness. The shift away from transitional housing as a response to homelessness began to be seen in 2013 and continued in 2014.

  • Rapid re-housing capacity grew dramatically—nearly doubling from 19,847 beds in 2013 to 37,783 beds in 2014, a 90 percent increase. 40 states increased rapid re-housing inventory.
  • The number of permanent supportive housing beds continued to grow from 2013 to 2014 by 15,984 beds (5.6 percent) to a total of 300,282 beds. 35 states saw increases and 15 states saw decreases.
  • Nationwide, emergency shelter utilization remained at the same highs seen between 2007 and 2013, with 102 percent of emergency shelter beds full at the time of the point-in-time count. Transitional housing utilization was lower, at 84 percent.

MOVING FORWARD

The number of people who are homeless, defined as those sleeping outside and in homeless assistance programs, continues to decrease despite the fact that housing situations for low-income populations continue to be poor. This is probably in part because targeted federal funding to address homelessness is at its highest level in history: $4.5 billion in fiscal year 2015 for a variety of programs spanning HUD, VA, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Education. In addition to increased resources, the homeless assistance field has shifted its focus to permanent housing solutions to homelessness: permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing capacity continues to grow.

Homelessness may be decreasing, possibly due to improvements in the homeless assistance system, but this system alone cannot overcome the affordable housing crisis. Housing remains unaffordable for a large swath of the American public. This was the case prior to the recession, worsened during the recession, and has not improved since the end of the recession. Mainstream low-income assistance programs should be attentive to households’ living situations and help maintain housing stability whenever possible and, more importantly, communities, states, and the federal government should urgently prioritize investment in affordable housing.