Future of homelessness numbers less certain
WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 17, 2011 – (RealEstateRama) — Homelessness in the United States did not increase significantly during the height of the recession, according to the Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (AHAR) released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) yesterday. The flat numbers, in spite of an idling economy, are a testament to improved homeless assistance systems and the adoption of housing-based strategies to end homelessness. However, budget cuts at the federal, state, and local levels threaten to destabilize the efforts made to avert increases in homelessness.
The report, based on 2010 data, shows a one percent increase in overall homelessness from 2009 to 2010. Subpopulations, including individuals, unsheltered homeless people, and persons in families increased slightly; 0.75 percent, 2.76 percent, and 1.61 percent respectively. Chronic homelessness continued to decline, dropping one percent. Experts largely attribute the continual decline in chronic homelessness to the broad implementation of best practices to serve chronically homeless people, namely permanent supportive housing.
For the first time, the impact of the federal Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) was included in the AHAR. The $1.5 billion program, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), offered communities significant new resources to curb homelessness resulting from the recession. In the first year, HPRP funds prevented and ended homelessness for an estimated 690,000 people and are credited with decreasing the length of time people experienced homelessness in suburban and rural communities, where the average length of stay in an emergency family shelter declined from 62 days to 40 days.
The three-year stimulus program, which ends next year, will leave a considerable hole in the budgets of many local homeless assistance programs. Coupled with cuts to mainstream poverty programs, local and state services, and the relentless rise in need, experts predict that homelessness may rise in the coming years.
“There’s little question that the federal government’s investment in homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing and local efforts to promote housing-based solutions staved off an increase in homelessness during an economically troubled time,” said Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “But bigger obstacles are ahead. Not only is HPRP ending but federal, state, and local budget cuts will arrest our ability to dedicate the resources necessary to prevent and end homelessness in the face of rising need. Now is not the time to become complacent; now is the time to rally to meet the challenge.”