America's Homelessness Continues Downward Trend, despite Nearly 1.5 Million Americans Using Shelters, Abt Studies Find

"Face" of U.S. Homelessness Revealed

Nov 21, 2013, 14:30 ET from Abt Associates

BETHESDA, Md., Nov. 21, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Two studies by Abt Associates—each providing a unique view of the nation's homeless population—conclude that homelessness among all subpopulations continues to decline.  One of the studies puts a "face" on homelessness, describing the typical homeless sheltered person as African American, middle-aged, an urban dweller living alone, and entering shelter following a stay with family.

The studies, reported in the just released 2013 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress: Part 1 and the 2012 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress: Part 2 released last week, were produced for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  The reports show that while counts of America's homeless population on one night in January 2013 declined by nine percent over the last six years and four percent since 2012, there were 1.48 million men, women and children of all races and ethnicities using shelters over the course of 2012.

"Both reports show significant progress in reducing homelessness and meeting the nation's goals to prevent and end homelessness in America," said Abt Senior Associate Dr. Alvaro Cortes, who led the studies with Abt Senior Analysts Meghan Henry and Dr. Claudia Solari, and Abt Principal Associate and Senior Fellow Dr. Jill Khadduri.  "These declines have occurred despite challenging economic circumstances and the end of major conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But the reports also show that much work remains."

Other findings in the 2013 AHAR reveal an eight percent drop in homeless veterans and a seven percent drop in people experiencing long-term (chronic) homelessness. 

Other Point-in-Time estimates reported in the 2013 AHAR include:

  • Between 2007 and 2013, unsheltered homelessness has declined by 23 percent (or 65,143 people).
  • Approximately 46,924 unaccompanied children and youth were homeless.
  • Family homelessness decreased by seven percent between 2012 and 2013. Overall, family homelessness has declined by 11 percent since 2007.
  • Five states accounted for more than half of the nation's homeless population in 2013: California, New York, Florida, Texas, and Massachusetts.

Cortes said the 2012 AHAR provides a comprehensive portrait of homelessness in America "which gives federal and local policymakers the information needed to understand the extent and nature of homelessness in our communities and continue to advance solutions to prevent and end homelessness in America."

In the 2012 AHAR, Abt researchers report that the homeless population sleeping in homeless shelters consisted of over 969,000 people who were homeless alone, mostly men, and more than 535,000 people in families, typically headed by an adult woman. The report also describes some subpopulations being at higher risk of becoming homeless: 1 in 69 African Americans in the U.S. used a homeless shelter, compared to 1 in 156 veterans and 1 in 220 children. 

Other One-Year estimates reported in the 2012 AHAR include:

  • 16 percent of sheltered homeless people were Hispanic.
  • The share of disabled adults in shelter increased 37 percent between 2007 and 2012.
  • The percentage of elderly individuals in shelter increased at a faster rate than among all U.S. individuals (8.2 percent versus 3.1 percent).
  • Veterans comprised 12 percent of the homeless adult population with 1 in 156 veterans using shelters at some point in 2012.
  • Nearly 22 percent of homeless people in shelter were minors under age 18.

The AHARs have been conducted annually for HUD by Abt Associates researchers since 2007, in partnership with Dr. Dennis Culhane at the University of Pennsylvania. 

About Abt Associates
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms and one of the top 40 international development innovators.  The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in more than 40 countries.

SOURCE Abt Associates