by Matthew Doherty, Executive Director
2017 Point-in-Time Estimates Show Significant Geographical Variations in Our Progress Toward Ending Homelessness
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released its report summarizing the data from communities' 2017 Point-in-Time (PIT) counts
, reporting a mix of results. The estimates provided by this data indicate there was continued progress in many parts of the country, but finds indications of stalled progress or significant increases in some communities. Further, the data documents important progress in ending homelessness for families with children, but stalled progress for Veterans, and significant increases for people with disabilities who are experiencing chronic homelessness. These results appear to have been impacted significantly by limited supply and increasing rents in many large urban areas across the country.
The estimates for different populations experiencing homelessness include:
- The estimate of the total number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night was 553,742 people. This represented an increase for the first time in seven years - up a little less than 1% (or 3,814 people) - after declining 14% between 2010 and 2016. This increase is driven entirely by a 9% increase in unsheltered homelessness.
- The number of families with children experiencing homelessness was reduced by 5% (or 3,294 households) between 2016 and 2017, contributing to an encouraging 27% reduction between 2010 and 2017.
- Estimated homelessness among Veterans ticked up slightly - by 1.5% or 585 Veterans - stalling the 47% reduction in Veteran homelessness between 2010 and 2016.
- The number of individuals estimated to be experiencing chronic homelessness went up by 12% (or 9,476 individuals), after declining 27% between 2010 and 2016, which appears to be both driven by worsening conditions and by efforts in many communities to more accurately determine which people meet the definition of chronic homelessness.
- There were an estimated 40,799 unaccompanied youth under the age of 25 experiencing homelessness. This number will serve as the baseline for assessing progress on youth homelessness within the PIT counts in the years ahead.
There is a great deal of local and regional variation in the data this year, with a small number of communities having a large impact on the national totals and with continued indications of progress in much of the country.
- 60% of Continuums of Care (237 CoCs) reported that they had reduced total homelessness, while 40% (162 CoCs) reported increases.
- 30 states and the District of Columbia reported that they had reduced total homelessness, while 20 states reported increases.
- The increase in homelessness nationwide has been driven primarily by increases in unsheltered homelessness among individuals in some communities, especially along the west coast, that are facing significant challenges within their rental markets. For example, if we remove the data from just a few high cost / low vacancy rental markets that reported large increases, the rest of the country reported an estimated 3% reduction in total homelessness, a 7% reduction in homelessness among families with children, a 6% reduction in homelessness among Veterans, and a smaller increase of 4% in chronic homelessness.
But we also know that we can't overlook the challenging issues within many parts of the country that this data documents. It is clear to us that many of the forces that appear to be driving increases in homelessness in some communities cannot be solved by the agencies and programs dedicated to ending homelessness alone. High costs and low vacancy rates are putting more people at risk of entering homelessness - and are making it harder and harder for people to find housing as they strive to exit homelessness.
Addressing those challenges requires a broader, community-wide response, engaging the efforts of many different jurisdictions, systems, agencies, and sectors. Otherwise, our homelessness services systems will be increasingly bottlenecked by the lack of housing in which people can afford to live. We're seeing such bottlenecks forming already in some communities.
As we pursue the necessary, longer-term solutions, we'll be immediately focused on next steps in the following areas:
- We'll be delving further into all of the data about housing needs and homelessness. The PIT count is just one of the data sources we use to understand homelessness and housing needs nationwide and in communities across America. We also look to HUD's Homeless Management Information System and Worst Case Housing Needs data, as well as data gathered by schools for the Department of Education. Once all of those reports are released, we will provide a more comprehensive analysis of trends over the last year.
- We'll continue to identify and advance the strategies that are driving the greatest progress. When able to be scaled up to match the scale of need,Housing First-oriented systems are working to reduce and ultimately end homelessness in communities throughout the country. Since 2015, 57 communities and 3 entire states have ended Veteran homelessness, and we've seen that momentum sustained in 2017. In the last month alone, Atlanta, the Greater Kansas City region, Pittsburgh/Allegheny County, and Delaware County, PA, have achieved the goal.
- We'll be using this data and information to strengthen the federal strategic plan. This data provides a continued call to action for the need to strengthen our efforts moving forward, including the need for more actions to address the challenges the lack of housing that people can afford are creating.Within our planned revised federal strategic plan, we'll be striving to identify and implement strategies to increase the supply of housing that is affordable to people at a wide range of income levels.
At the same time, we will continue to support and champion the communities around the country that are continuing to work hard and make progress toward the end of homelessness. Because we cannot thrive as a country unless everyone - in all of our communities - can thrive.
As always, we thank you for your dedication to making sure every American has a safe and stable home.