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The State of Homelessness in America 2015
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)
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.