The number of homeless people in America fell by 4 percent from 2012, according to the latest data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

On a single night in January in 2013, 610,042 people were homeless in the nation. Most, 65 percent, were in emergency shelters and transitional housing while 35 percent were unsheltered, according to the Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. The overall number of homeless people has declined by 9 percent since 2007.

The finding are good news given the continued sluggishness of the economy and high rents , says Nan Roman, president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

“It shows that approaches to ending homelessness are becoming more effective,” she says.

Eliminating homelessness among veterans is a mission that has received strong support, and the results can be seen in a 24 percent drop since 2009, according to Roman. “We should seize opportunities that exist, and that’s one of them,” she says.

Some of the improving numbers may also be attributed to more focus on permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing efforts.

Despite the positive results seen in the most recent homeless count, advocates still have deep concerns. Roman notes that funding for public housing authorities and other programs are being slashed.

Pointing to the recent progress, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan called for Congress to continue supporting proven programs.

"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,” Donovan said in a statement. “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."

Roman also points out that homelessness is a “very local story.” While overall numbers may be down, homelessness increased in 21 states and many cities.

On the positive side, reductions were seen in every major subpopulation. The annual point-in-time estimates found:

  • 57,849 homeless veterans in January 2013, an 8 percent drop from the year before. Homelessness among vets has declined by 24 percent since 2009;
  • 109,132 chronically homeless people. Chronic homelessness among individuals declined by 7 percent over the past year. Since 2007, chronic homelessness has fallen by 25 percent;
  • 222,197 homeless people in 70,960 families, representing 36 percent of all homeless people on a single night. Family homelessness rose during the recession, but the latest count of homeless people in families shows a 7 percent decline (17,206 people) since 2012;
  • Nearly 200,000 homeless children and youth, about one-third of all homeless people. Most (77 percent or 152,766) were part of a homeless family. There were 46,924 unaccompanied homeless children and youth, roughly 8 percent of the total homeless population;
  • 29 states experienced decreases in the total number of homeless individuals between 2012 and 2013, with the largest decreases in Florida (5,412 people), Georgia (2,483), Louisiana (2,414), Nevada (1,319), and North Carolina (950);
  • 21 states experienced increases in the total number of homeless individuals between 2012 and 2013. By far, the largest increase was found in California, with 6,044 additional individuals homeless since 2012. Other states with large increases in individual homelessness were: South Carolina (1,409), New York (1,102), and Pennsylvania (678); and
  • Los Angeles experienced the largest increase among major cities, reporting 11,445 more homeless people (or 27 percent) in 2013 compared to 2012. New York City reported 7,388 more homeless people (or 13 percent).