Over half a million people experienced homelessness on a single night in 2019, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) 2019 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.
During the January 2019 point-in-time count, 567,715 people were homeless, up 2.7% from 2018 but down nearly 11% since 2010. Much of the increase is attributed to the West Coast. While 29 states and the District of Columbia saw declines in homelessness in 2019, 21 states reported increases, including California. The Golden State reported a 16.4% jump of 21,306 people experiencing homelessness, which accounts for more than the entire national increase.
The estimated number of people experiencing chronic homelessness increased 8.5% between 2018 and 2019. This increase also concentrated on the West Coast, with the largest numbers coming out of California.
However, state and local planning agencies reported the number of homeless veterans and families with children decreased in 2019, down 2.1% and 4.8%, respectively. Unaccompanied homeless youth and children last year is estimated at 35,038, a 3.6% decrease from the prior year.
“As we look across our nation, we see great progress, but we’re also seeing a continued increase in street homelessness along our West Coast where the cost of housing is extremely high,” said HUD secretary Ben Carson. “In fact, homelessness is at a crisis level and needs to be addressed by local and state leaders with crisis-like urgency. Addressing these challenges will require a broader, community-wide response that engages every level of government to compassionately house our most vulnerable citizens.”
The National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) said the increases in 2019 were striking among the number of unsheltered homeless, which rose by 8.7%, including unsheltered women, which saw a 15% increase, and people who identify as transgender, which saw a 43% increase. In addition, African-Americans accounted for 40% of all people experiencing homelessness last year, despite being just 13% of the nation’s population.
“Any increase in homelessness is bad news. But we must be clear about the causes and solutions,” said Nan Roman, NAEH president and CEO. “This isn’t the fault of the homelessness sector, and it is not the fault of people experiencing homelessness. It is the fault of systems that have failed our most vulnerable populations and leaders who have failed to protect them. Our charge for 2020 is to remain committed to the best practices in ending homelessness and to remain resolved to addressing the systems that cause people to become homeless.”
Roman added that homelessness did not go up in 2019 because the nation doesn’t how to solve it. “The reason for the increase is that more and more people are falling into homelessness. They don’t make enough to pay for the housing that’s available. This year’s numbers must motivate our federal leaders to remap up the resources for the evidence-based, housing-focused solutions to homeless that are proven to work.”
She attributed the success that nation has seen on reducing veteran and family homelessness to the alignment from the federal government, the homeless services sector, and philanthropy around evidence-based best practices and the adoption of Housing First principles. Housing First prioritizes getting people into housing as quickly as possible and then connecting them with the services needed to gain stability.
In 2019, 37,085 veterans were reported as homeless, a small decrease from 2018 but half of what was reported in 2010. This decline is attributed to planning and targeted interventions, including collaboration between HUD and Veterans Affairs (VA). The agencies administer the HUD-VA Supportive Housing program, which combines HUD rental assistance with case management and clinical services from the VA. In 2020, over 4,400 veterans will find permanent housing and wraparound services through the HUD-VASH program.
Communities using more robust coordinated entry efforts and local planners relying on interventions to move families into permanent housing more quickly are best practices helping to reduce these numbers. In 2019, 53,962 families with children experienced homelessness, down nearly 5% from 2018 and 32% since 2010.
“This year’s report is an urgent call to action to federal, state, and local leaders,” Roman said. “We know how to end homelessness. Family homelessness has declined every year since 2012. And veteran homelessness went down eight of the past nine years. Now is not the time to abandon the practices that drove those results. Now is the time to get serious about funding them to scale.”