The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) last week released the latest national estimate of homelessness, highlighting a continuing decline across the nation.
HUD’s 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress found an overall 11 percent decline in the number of persons experiencing homelessness since 2010, including a 26 percent drop in the number of persons living on the streets. In Ohio, local communities reported a total 11,182 persons experienced homelessness, representing an 11 percent decline since 2010, the year President Obama launched Opening Doors, the nation’s first-ever comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness.
Nationwide, veteran homelessness declined 36 percent between 2010 and 2015; family homelessness dropped 19 percent, and chronic homelessness fell 22 percent. Meanwhile in Ohio, veteran homelessness declined 7.5 percent between 2010 and 2015; family homelessness declined 30.5 percent, and chronic homelessness fell 48.2 percent.
HUD’s annual report shows that certain communities are making significant progress, while others are struggling in light of the widespread housing affordability crisis, budget shortfalls or slow adoption of best practices. The results are based on HUD’s “point-in-time” estimates, which seek to measure the scope of homelessness on a single night in January each year.
“The Obama Administration has made an historic commitment to effectively end homelessness in this nation,” HUD Secretary Julian Castro said. “Together with our partners across the federal government and communities from coast to coast, we have made tremendous progress toward our ambitious goals. But our work is far from finished. We have to continue making smart investments in the strategies that work so that everyone has a roof over their head.”
Antonio Riley, HUD Midwest regional administrator, said the agency has been laser-focused on best practices to end homelessness as it exists presently. “We will continue to work tirelessly with our partners to shift the homelessness paradigm, reduce recidivism and continue to support rapid re-housing and permanent supportive hosing opportunities,” he said.
On a single night in January 2015, state and local planning agencies in Ohio reported the following estimates of homelessness:
• Overall, homelessness declined by 1,387 persons or 11 percent since 2010. In January 2015, an estimated 11,182 people were homeless on a given night. Most – 90.2 percent – were staying in residential programs for homeless people, and 9.8 percent were found in unsheltered locations.
• Homelessness among veterans fell by 7.50 percent between 2010 and January 2015. On a single night in January 2015, 1,183 veterans were homeless, and only 9.3 percent of those were on the street.
• Chronic homelessness among individuals continued to decline, by 48.2 percent since 2010. More than 1,100 individuals experiencing homelessness in January 2015 were reported as chronically homeless.
• Local communities reported a 15.7 percent reduction in families experiencing homelessness between the 2014 and January 2015. Since 2010, family homelessness declined by 30.5 percent.
By targeting investments to individuals and families who need assistance most – those living on the streets the longest or with the greatest barriers to housing – HUD is ensuring that its limited resources are used as effectively and efficiently as possible. Despite increased requests in the president’s budget each year, HUD homeless assistance funding has not kept pace with need. This has resulted in an insignificant decrease in the number of persons experiencing chronic homelessness between 2014 and 2015.
In the meantime, HUD continues to incentivize communities to target resources, prioritize assistance, and invest in programs with proven track records.
This year, HUD revised its data collection requirements on youth experiencing homelessness, which may result in increased point-in-time counts as communities improve their methodologies. HUD is also working with communities to improve collection to better understand the size and scope of homelessness, including efforts like youth engagement and collaboration with schools and other youth-serving systems.
In addition, HUD is in the process of improving and updating its year-long data collection on youth, and now also includes data from the U.S. Department of Education and American Housing Survey in its Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. While HUD works to better understand how to most effectively count youth and provide critical services, it expects that in many communities counts will show more youth experiencing homelessness because of improved methodology.
Across the nation, communities are implementing systems to quickly and effectively house individuals and families experiencing homelessness in a coordinated way. Working together across agencies, these communities are creating unprecedented partnerships toward achieving the national goal of ending homelessness.
Every year in late January, volunteers across the nation conduct a count of their local sheltered and unsheltered homeless populations. These one-night “snapshot” counts are then reported to HUD. This data is crucial in understanding the scope of homelessness and measuring progress in reducing it. The point-in-time count only captures those persons sleeping in sheltered and unsheltered locations on the night of the count but is not reflective of who is eligible for HUD’s homeless assistance grants programs.