Feds: Homelessness on the decline

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Despite recent headlines decrying the level of homelessness in cities like New York and Washington, D.C. the Department of Housing and Urban Development this week announced an overall decline in homelessness since 2010.

According to HUD’s 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, there has been “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 findings come via “point-in-time” estimates that measure the level of homelessness on a single night in January annually and are based on 3,000 cities and counties.

The agency reports that January 2013’s measure constituted a 24 percent decrease in Veteran homelessness, a 16 percent drop in long-term, chronic homelessness, and an 8.2 percent decline among people in family households since 2010.

And while the overall homeless population across the country declined from 671,888 in 2007, to 649,917 in 2010, and 610,042 in 2013, several states experienced large increases in homelessness from 2007 to 2013. These New York (which saw its homeless population climb 23 percent), Massachusetts (25 percent), Missouri (37.4 percent), and the District of Columbia (29 percent) .

Other states like California (-14.3 percent), Michigan (-59.3 percent), Texas (-25.6 percent), and Washington (-24 percent) saw a decrease in homelessness over that 2007-2013 time period.

“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,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said in a statement. “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.”

According to HUD, large quantities of homeless people are located in Los Angeles and New York City.

“Nearly 20 percent of people experiencing homelessness were in either Los Angeles (nine percent of the total or 53,798) or New York City (11 percent of total or 64,060),” HUD reported in its release. “Los Angeles experienced the largest increase among major cities, reporting 11,445 more individuals living in homelessness (or 27 percent) in 2013 compared to 2012. New York City reported 7,388 more persons experiencing homelessness (or 13 percent).”

The HUD report comes as recent news reports highlight the level of homelessness in cities like New York.

“For baseball games, Yankee Stadium seats 50,287,” an October New Yorker article reads. “If all the homeless people who now live in New York City used the stadium for a gathering, several thousand of them would have to stand. More people in the city lack homes than at any time since . . . It’s hard to say exactly. The Coalition for the Homeless, a leading advocate for homeless people in the city and the state, says that these numbers have not been seen in New York since the Great Depression”

The Washington Post last month also highlighted concerns among D.C. officials about the level of homelessness in the nation’s capitol.

“D.C. officials are projecting a 10 percent increase in the number of families who will be homeless this winter,” the Post reports. “And with temperatures dropping and shelters still full, advocates worry that there will be, literally, nowhere for them to go.”

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