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HomeNewsHUD issues 2008 annual homeless assessment report to Congress

HUD issues 2008 annual homeless assessment report to Congress

hudlogoWASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today issued its 2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, a national study that explores changes in homelessness nationwide. HUD’s assessment concludes that while overall homelessness in America held fairly steady from 2007 to 2008, the number of homeless families, particularly those living in suburban and rural areas, increased.

In addition to the annual report, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced that HUD will, for the first time ever, begin measuring homelessness on a quarterly basis to gain a better understanding of the impact of the current economic crisis on homelessness. The first “Homeless Pulse Project” for the first quarter of 2009 is now available.

A homeless person
A homeless person

“The annual report tells us a great deal but it also begs many questions about how today’s housing crisis and job losses are playing out in our shelters and on our streets,” said Secretary Donovan. “The Administration’s aggressive approach to economic recovery recognizes that during these difficult times, families in certain areas of the country are at extreme risk of falling into homelessness. With our new Quarterly Homeless Pulse Report, we will be able to better understand the impact of the current economic crisis on homelessness across the country.”

According to the 2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, between 2007 and 2008, the number of sheltered homeless individuals remained virtually the same while the number of homeless families seeking shelter increased by nine percent overall, and by nearly 56 percent in suburban and rural areas.

HUD measures homelessness through the Annual Homeless Assessment Report in two ways:

  • Point-In-Time ‘Snapshots – these data account for sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons on a single night, usually at the end of January. Comparing point-in-time counts over time can reveal important trends about the seasonality of homelessness (see summary of findings).
  • Homeless Management Information Systems – these data provide more detailed information on persons who access a shelter over the course of a full year. In the 2008 AHAR, 222 local communities contributed HMIS data to produce national estimates of sheltered homeless. HUD estimates that approximately 1.6 million persons experienced homelessness and found shelter between October 1, 2007 and September 30, 2008.

The changing patterns of homelessness between 2007 and 2008 also provide potential indicators of how the economic crisis may be affecting homelessness in America. For example, many more sheltered homeless persons are coming from housed living arrangements just prior to entering the shelter system and most of these persons appear to be wearing out their welcome with family and friends. The report also demonstrates that many more people are coming from stable living arrangements, or places where they lived for one year or more.

HUD’s year-long sample of HMIS data found the following characteristics of all sheltered homeless persons (see p. 25):

  • Geographic – 68 percent are in principal cities – 32 percent are in suburban and rural areas.
  • Household Type – 68 percent are individuals – 32 percent are persons in families with children.
  • Race – 62 percent are members of minorities.
  • Gender – 64 percent of all sheltered homeless adults are men and 36 percent are women.
  • Age – 40 percent of all homeless individuals are 31-to-50 years old.
  • Veteran Status – 12 percent of all sheltered homeless adults are veterans.

HUD’s NEW Quarterly Homeless Pulse Report

HUD’s first “Homeless Pulse Project” focuses on data from nine geographically diverse areas across the country. These communities measured the number of homeless individuals seeking shelter from January to March, 2009 (see attached).

  1. Phoenix/Mesa/Maricopa County, Arizona
  2. Bridgeport, Stratford, and Fairfield, Connecticut
  3. Washington, DC
  4. Lakeland/Winterhaven/Polk County, Florida
  5. Kentucky Balance of State
  6. Shreveport/Bossier/Northwest, Louisiana
  7. New York City
  8. Cleveland/Cuyahoga County, Ohio
  9. Richmond/Henrico, Chesterfield, and Hanover Counties, Virginia

These areas reported the following changes in their sheltered homeless population during the first quarter of 2009:

Homelessness details

Homelessness details

Key Findings

  • About 664,000 people nationwide were homeless-either sheltered or unsheltered-on a single night in January 2008, down about 7,500 people (or one percent) from the previous year.
  • The number of people using homeless residential programs during the course of the year remained steady. Between October 1, 2007 and September 30, 2008, approximately 1.6 million homeless people used shelters or transitional housing programs at least once.
  • While the number of homeless individuals in shelters in 2008 was about the same as in 2007, the number of people in families increased by nine percent to 516,700, suggesting that family homelessness may be on the rise.
  • Family homelessness increased most especially in suburban and rural areas, by nearly 56 percent between 2007 and 2008. During that same time, the number of homeless individuals in suburban and rural areas increased by nearly 34 percent (see exhibit 4-2 and 4-3).
  • Homeless persons in shelters and on the street continued to be most heavily concentrated in urban areas. One in five people homeless on a single night in January were located in Los Angeles, New York, and Detroit.
  • However, in the twelve months ending on September 30, 2008, the number of people who accessed residential programs in suburban and rural areas increased substantially, from 23 percent in 2007 to 32 percent in 2008.
  • There were early signs that the economic crisis may be affecting trends in homelessness nationally. Notably, a greater share of people accessing the homeless system in 2008 came from stays with friends and family and from places where they had lived a year or more, suggesting that people who had been stably housed were becoming homeless after exhausting their housing options.

About the Department of Housing and Urban Development

HUD is the nation’s housing agency committed to sustaining homeownership; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development and enforces the nation’s fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov


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