Nearly 565,000 people were among the U.S. homeless identified during a one-night count in January 2015, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness’ (NAEH) 2016 State of Homelessness report.
Sixty-nine percent of those counted were in shelters or transitional housing, while 31 percent were living on the street or in abandoned buildings. A majority of the total homeless population were individuals (358,422 or 63 percent).
While there was a 2 percent decline in overall homelessness, state-by-state results were mixed with 33 states reporting a decrease (mostly in the South and Midwest) and 16 states noting an increase (mostly in the West and Northeast).
In addition, “only 18 states reported decreases in the number of people living in unsheltered locations, including the street, cars and abandoned buildings.”
“National trends and overall totals do not provide a complete picture of homelessness across the country,” the report emphasized. “Larger and more populous areas have greater numbers of people experiencing homelessness, but not necessarily higher rates of homelessness.”
For example, Texas and Georgia reported high numbers of homeless persons (23,678 and 13,790, respectively) but were well below the national average of 17.7 homeless per 10,000 people (8.8 and 13.7, respectively).
By contrast, the District of Columbia reported 7,298 homeless persons but had the highest rate of homelessness at 110.8 per 10,000 persons. The next highest rate was Hawaii at 53.7.
Several avenues to address homelessness saw progress in 2015.
There was a 59.6 percent increase in rapid rehousing, which seeks to help folks experiencing homelessness find affordable, permanent housing. Permanent supportive housing options, which provide affordable housing through rent subsidies and other forms of assistance, saw a 6.3 percent increase.
Faith-based organizations across the U.S. are engaging this issue with many receiving Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants to support their work.
According the HUD guidelines, “a faith-based organization cannot decline to serve clients on the basis of faith and the government must provide alternatives to clients who object to a religious provider. Also, federal funds cannot be used for worship, religious initiatives or proselytizing.”
The NAEH report is based on U.S. government data, which uses a point-in-time approach that takes a one-night survey of homeless shelters.
This method, Jonathan Davis, Urbanna Baptist Church in Urbanna, Virginia, asserts, provides an incomplete set of data due to the lack of shelters in rural areas, resulting in the homeless population being underreported in these regions.
The full report is available here.