For the second straight year, the number of homeless families in emergency shelters and transitional housing programs rose while the number of sheltered homeless individuals fell, according to the 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR).

When families are considered as households rather than as separate individuals in a household, slightly more than 170,000 families were sheltered homeless last year, about a 30 percent jump since 2007.

On the positive side, the number of homeless individuals fell 5 percent. The estimated number of chronic homeless was down more than 10 percent.

“Despite the worst recession this country has seen since the Depression, this report shows that, nationally, we were able to avoid massive increases in homelessness—at least through last fall. There’s little question that the hard work of communities implementing housing-based strategies played a key role,” says Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “But the rise in family shelter use is a clear indication that the recession is having an effect on vulnerable households. We are deeply concerned that it foreshadows increases in homelessness in the future.”

For the first time, the number of beds in permanent supportive housing surpassed the number of beds in emergency shelter or transitional housing.

Permanent supportive housing increased by about 60,000 beds between 2006 and 2009. More than half the growth was in the past year, from 196,000 beds in 2008 to more than 219,000 in 2009.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development report finds that an estimated 643,067 people were homeless on a given night in 2009. Roughly 1.56 million, or one in every 200 Americans, spent at least one night in a shelter during the year.