The State of Homelessness in America Report Suggests Risk of Homelessness Persists for Many American Families

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Press Releases | January 17, 2012

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

The State of Homelessness in America Report Suggests Risk of Homelessness Persists for Many American Families
Overall homelessness numbers down since 2009; Severe housing cost burden, doubling up continues to rise

Despite a decrease in the overall number of people experiencing homelessness, indicators suggest that homelessness may affect more and more Americans in the coming years. In a report to be released at a press conference Wednesday, January 18, the National Alliance to End Homelessness examines the levels of homelessness at both state and national levels, and also examines issues related to homelessness including severe housing cost burden, doubling up, unemployment, and foreclosure.

Chief among the findings of the report is the 13 percent increase in doubled up households from 2009 to 2011 and the 22 percent increase in severely housing cost burdened poor families (defined as families below the poverty line paying 50 percent or more of their monthly income on housing) in the same time period. These indicators, as well as other economic and demographic indicators analyzed in the report, underscore the persistent risk of homelessness for poor and low-income people and families.

The State of Homelessness in America 2012 investigates the economic indicators and demographic drivers of homelessness, examining how eight factors contribute to increased risk of homelessness among vulnerable populations. The Alliance examined four economic indicators (unemployment, foreclosure, income, and severe housing cost burden) and four demographic drivers (aging out of foster care, release from incarceration, doubling up, and lack of insurance).

Major Findings:

  • The nation’s homeless population decreased 1 percent, or by about 7,000 people; it went from 643,067 in 2009 to 636,017 in 2011. Most of the examined subpopulations, including families, chronic, and individuals, experienced a decrease in population. The only increase was among the unsheltered population.
  • The largest decrease was among homeless veterans, whose population declined 11 percent. The number of homeless veterans went from 75,609 in 2009 to 67,495 in 2011, a reduction of about 8,000.
  • Chronic homelessness decreased by 3 percent from 110,911 in 2009 to 107,148 in 2011. The chronically homeless population has decreased by 13 percent since 2007. The decrease is associated with an increase in the number of permanent supportive housing beds from 188,636 in 2007 to 266,968 in 2011. Permanent supportive housing ends chronic homelessness.
  • The number of poor households that spent more than 50 percent of their incomes on rent – defined by HUD as households that are “severely housing cost burdened” – increased by 6 percent from 5.9 million in 2009 to 6.2 million in 2010. Three-quarters of all poor renter households had severe housing cost burdens.
  • The “doubled up” population (people who live with friends, family or other nonrelatives for economic reasons) increased by 13 percent from 6 million in 2009 to 6.8 million in 2010. The doubled up population increased by more than 50 percent from 2005 to 2010.

“What’s remarkable here is the decrease in homelessness amidst a wrenching recession,” said Nan Roman, president of the Alliance, “and we can attribute that to the $1.5 billion federal investment in ending homelessness, the stimulus-funded Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program. We can see how a financially-backed commitment reaps measurable results. But we’re not out of the woods yet. Persistent unemployment, rising housing cost burden, and an increase in doubled up households suggest heightened risk of homelessness for more and more Americans just as HPRP dollars are about dry up. In order to keep the course and move toward ending homelessness, we need to continue investing in proven, housing-centered solutions.”

The State of Homelessness is the second in an annual series. For more information and access to the full report, please visit the Alliance website: LINK.

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