TOUGH ECONOMIC CONDITIONS have forced more people into homelessness, according to the latest study by the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

The report finds that conditions worsened among all four economic indicators examined—housing affordability for poor people, unemployment, poor workers' income, and foreclosure status.

It's clear that high unemployment and high housing costs are contributing to the rise in homelessness, says Nan Roman, president and CEO of the Alliance, citing a 60 percent jump in unemployed people from 2008 to 2009.

After recent declines, the homeless population grew by about 20,000 people, or 3 percent, from 2008 to 2009, according to the latest study.

The most recent available data is from the January 2009 point-in-time count, which revealed an estimated 656,129 people experiencing homelessness in the United States and its territories on a given night.

The “State of Homelessness in America” report is the Alliance's first investigation of the changes that have occurred during the recent recession.

Because homelessness is a “lagging indicator,” meaning it comes a while after people lose their jobs and do everything they can to hold on to their homes, the concern is that bigger increases may be ahead, says Roman.

What may help offset that is recent efforts by the federal government and local partners through the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re- Housing Program, says Roman.

Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the program provided $1.5 billion to help local communities keep families in their homes.

While many people may think that homelessness will never happen to them, the study estimates that there's a pretty fair shot of it happening.

The report gauges that the odds of experiencing homelessness in the course of a year are about one in 200 for the general population though the odds vary by economic circumstance. For someone at or below the poverty line, the odds increase to one in 25.

One group at an elevated risk is “doubled- up” people, those who are living with friends or family due to economic need. The nation's doubled-up population increased from 5.4 million in 2008 to 6 million the following year. The odds of becoming homeless for a doubled-up person are about one in 10. For a young adult aging out of foster care, the odds of homelessness