On a single night last January, 633,782 people were homeless in the United States, largely unchanged from the year before, announced the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in its latest estimates of homelessness.

While the data from more than 3,000 cities and counties showed only a marginal decline in overall homelessness, officials touted a 7 percent drop in homelessness among veterans and those experiencing long-term or chronic homelessness.

“We continue to see a stable level of homelessness across our country at a time of great stress for those at risk of losing their housing,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in a statement. “We must redouble our efforts to target our resources more effectively to help those at greatest risk. As our nation’s economic recovery takes hold, we will make certain that our homeless veterans and those living on our streets find stable housing so they can get on their path to recovery.”

HUD and Veterans Affairs (VA) leaders attributed the decline in veterans on the streets to the joint HUD-VA Supportive Housing program, better known as HUD-VASH.

HUD-VASH has provided more than 42,000 homeless veterans permanent supportive housing through rental vouchers provided by HUD along with supportive services and case management by the VA.

The reductions were also attributed to the $1.5 billion Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program that was designed to assist people confronted by a sudden economic crisis. Funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, it spared more than 1.3 million persons from homelessness by providing short-term rental assistance and other help.

During one night in late January 2012, local planners or "Continuums of Care" across the nation conducted a one-night count of their sheltered and unsheltered homeless populations. These one-night "snapshot" counts are then reported to HUD as part of state and local grant applications.  While the data reported to HUD does not directly determine the level of a community’s grant funding, these estimates, as well as full-year counts, are crucial in understanding the scope of homelessness and measuring progress in reducing it.

Key findings from the 2012 point-in-time estimates include:

  • 633,782 people were homeless.  This is largely unchanged (-0.4%) from January 2011, and it represents a reduction of 5.7 percent since 2007.  Most homeless persons (62 percent) are individuals while 38 percent of homeless persons are in family households.
  • Veteran homelessness fell by 7.2 percent (or 4,876 persons) since January 2011 and by 17.2 percent since January 2009.  On a single night in January 2012, 62,619 veterans were homeless.
  • Persons experiencing long-term or chronic homelessness declined 6.8 percent (or 7,254) from last year and 19.3 percent (or 23,939 persons) since 2007. 
  • Homelessness among individuals declined 1.4 percent (or 5,457) from a year ago and 6.8 percent since 2007.  Meanwhile, the number of homeless families increased slightly (1.4 %) from last year though declining 3.7 percent since 2007.
  • Street homelessness (the unsheltered homeless population) was unchanged since January 2011 yet declined 13.1 percent (or 36,860 people) since 2007.
  • Five states accounted for nearly half of the nation’s homeless population in 2012: California (20.7 percent), New York (11 percent), Florida (8.7 percent), Texas (5.4 percent), and Georgia (3.2 percent).