In its fourth annual homeless assessment report released July 9, HUD finds that the number of families experiencing homelessness increased by 9% in 2008. As a result, fully 32% of those experiencing homelessness were part of a family, defined as a household that includes an adult 18 years of age or older and at least one child.
Overall, the total number of sheltered homeless individuals remained about the same from 2007 to 2008, with nearly 1.6 million individuals spending time in an emergency or transitional shelter between October 2007 and September 2008. Additionally, the report estimates that in January 2008 about 124,135 individuals were chronically homeless, individuals with disabilities and long or frequent patterns of homelessness, nearly identical to the count in 2007.
HUD concludes, however, that the report may understate the current state of homelessness in the country, as the most recent data in the report are from October 2008 and show only the beginning impact of the economic recession on homelessness. The report finds that there are some early indications that the homelessness situation may be changing during the economic downturn, with family homelessness rising and a larger percentage of sheltered homeless individuals coming from stable accommodations and not “at-risk” situations. The share of the sheltered homeless population living in suburban and rural areas also grew, from 23% in 2007 to 32% in 2008.
The report is based on homeless surveys conducted by all of the Continuums of Care in the country, which also report the number of shelter beds available in their communities. The study also draws information on the characteristics of the sheltered population from the Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) of nearly 100 shelters.
The 2008 Annual Homeless Assessment: A Report to Congress, which contains a significant amount of information on the characteristics of homeless families and individuals as well as appendices providing homeless counts for each state, is available at: http://www.hudhre.info/documents/4thHomelessAssessmentReport.pdf