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

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Press Releases | January 19, 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 slight 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.

Major Findings:

  • The nation’s homeless population decreased 1 percent, or by about 7,000 people between 2009 and 2011; it went from 643,067 (2009) to 636,017 (2011). Most of the examined subpopulations, including families, chronically homeless people, and individuals, experienced a decrease in population. The only increase was among people who were unsheltered.
  • 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 units 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 that despite the recession and its aftermath, homelessness did not increase,” said Nan Roman, president of the Alliance. “That appears to be due to $1.5 billion federal Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program – a stimulus initiative focused on preventing a recession-related increase in homelessness. The program worked, but the funds are nearly gone. In addition, persistent unemployment, rising housing cost burden, and an increase in doubled up households suggest heightened risk of homelessness for more and more Americans. In order to prevent a rise in homelessness in the future, we need to prioritize a safety net for the most vulnerable, and to ramp up investment 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: http://www.endhomelessness.org/content/article/detail/4361.

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