Donovan calls on Congress to support proven programs to build on progress
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today released its latest national estimate of homelessness in the U.S., noting reductions in every major category or subpopulation since 2010, the year the federal government established “Opening Doors,” a strategic plan to end homelessness. HUD’s 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress finds significant and measureable progress to reduce the scale of long-term or ‘chronic’ homelessness as well as homelessness experienced by Veterans and families.
HUD’s annual ‘point-in-time’ estimates measure the scope of homelessness on a single night in January of each year. Based on data reported by more than 3,000 cities and counties, last January’s one-night estimate reveals a 24 percent drop in homelessness among Veterans and a 16 percent reduction among individuals experiencing long-term or chronic homelessness since 2010. HUD’s estimate also found the largest decline in the number of persons in families experiencing homelessness since the Department began measuring homelessness in a standard manner in 2005.
Pointing to the progress made over the past three years, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan pressed Congress to continue supporting proven programs that are housing and serving persons experiencing homelessness.
“We’re making real and significant progress to reduce homelessness in this country and now is not the time to retreat from doing what we know works,” said Donovan. “If we’re going to end homelessness as we know it, we need a continued bipartisan commitment from Congress to break the cycle trapping our most vulnerable citizens between living in a shelter or a life on the streets. I understand these are tough budget times but these are proven strategies that are making a real difference. We simply can’t balance our budget on the backs of those living on the margins.”
“We are on the right track in the fight to end homelessness among Veterans. While this trend is encouraging news, we know that there is more work to do,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “As President Obama said, we’re not going to rest until every Veteran who has fought for America has a home in America. The results in the latest report are a credit to the effort given by our dedicated staff, and our federal, state, and community partners who are committed to ending Veterans’ homelessness.”
Barbara J. Poppe, Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, added, “Extraordinary efforts on the part of Federal agencies and our State and community partners have again led to reductions in homelessness, as seen in this year’s Point-in-Time count. We are driving toward the goals of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. This report shows that with strategic investment in evidence-based practices and proven solutions, we can end homelessness in this country.”
During one night in late January of 2013, local planner organizations or “Continuums of Care” across the nation conducted a one-night count of their sheltered and unsheltered homeless populations. These one-night ‘snapshot’ counts are then reported to HUD as part of state and local grant applications. While the data reported to HUD does not directly determine the level of a community’s grant funding, these estimates, as well as full-year counts, are crucial in understanding the scope of homelessness and measuring progress in reducing it.
The Obama Administration’s strategic plan to end homelessness is called Opening Doors – a roadmap by 19 federal member agencies of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness along with local and state partners in the public and private sectors. The Plan puts the country on a path to end Veterans and chronic homelessness by 2015; and to ending homelessness among children, family, and youth by 2020. The Plan presents strategies building upon the lesson that mainstream housing, health, education, and human service programs must be fully engaged and coordinated to prevent and end homelessness.
The decline in veteran homelessness is largely attributed to the close collaboration between HUD and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on a joint program called HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH). Research demonstrates that for those who have been homeless the longest, often living on our streets for years at a time, permanent supportive housing—housing coupled with supportive services to address mental illness, substance addiction, and other challenges—not only ends homelessness for these vulnerable individuals, but also saves the taxpayer money by interrupting a costly cycle of emergency room visits, detoxes, and even jail terms. Since 2008, a total of 58,250 rental vouchers have been awarded and 43,371 formerly homeless Veterans are currently in homes of their own because of HUD-VASH.
Chronic homelessness among individuals is declining and has done so quite substantially since 2007.This decline is partially attributable to a long-standing push to develop more permanent supportive housing opportunities for those struggling with long-term homelessness who otherwise continually cycle from shelters to the streets.
Read more on homeless data reported on a state and community-based level.