A NEW FEDERAL REPORT says the number of people living on the streets fell by nearly 52,000 from 2005 to 2007, but not everyone is convinced of the findings.

While Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) leaders said they are encouraged by the nearly 30 percent drop in chronic homelessness, Michael Stoops, acting executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, warned of the difficulties of counting the homeless population.

"Our network of homeless service providers and food pantries are reporting more people," he said.

A number of American cities are gentrifying their central core areas and pushing the homeless out of downtowns. "The homeless are not as visible," he said.

In addition, he thinks that the homeless problem is only going to get worse, with the rising number of foreclosures and the sagging economy.

On a positive note, Stoops said that a number of people who have been able to get into supportive housing have been able to break the cycle of homelessness.

HUD's Annual Homeless Assessment Report is based on two data sources-information reported by Continuums of Care in the country and data from the Homeless Management Information Systems. The report said that on a single night in January 2007, there were 671,888 sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons in the nation. It is estimated that over the course of a year about 1.6 million people used an emergency shelter and/or transitional housing, suggesting that about one in every 200 persons in the country was in a homeless residential facility at some point during the reporting period.

HUD said the report is an important milestone in its efforts to study homelessness and will provide a baseline for future reports.