National Homeless Rates Decline, but Severe Housing Cost Burdens Rise

The 2016 issue of the National Alliance to End Homelessness’s (NAEH) annual report The State of Homelessness in America shows that on a single night in January 2015, 564,708 people in the U.S. were homeless, a two percent decrease from 2014. Each sub-population experienced decreases in homelessness, including families (4.6%), veterans (4.0%), unsheltered persons (1.2%), and chronically homeless individuals (1.0%). The homelessness rate in 2015 was 17.7 homeless per 10,000 people. The number of severely cost burdened poor renter households, however, continued to increase, and millions are at risk of homelessness.

People who are at risk of homeless include seven million people in low income households who ware doubled up, living with family or friends, which is a 9% decrease from 2013 but a 51.9% increase since 2007, Other risk factors are unemployment, poverty, and housing cost burden. Nine million, six hundred thousand people were unemployed, a 16% decrease since 2013 but a 37% increase since 2007; 48.2 million people live in poverty, a 1.2% decline since 2013 but a 26.7% increase since 2007. There were 6.6 million severely cost burdened poor renter households spending more than half of their income on rent in 2014, an increase of 2.1% from 2013. Since 2007, the number of low income households experiencing severe housing cost burdens has increased 27.7%.

Capacity in the homeless assistance system has increased in recent years. Between 2007 and 2015, the number of permanent supportive housing beds has increased by 69.2% and the number of emergency shelter beds by 25.1%. The number of rapid re-housing beds increased by 60,312 beds. At the same time, the number of transitional housing beds declined by 23.4%.

The report concludes that homelessness has declined due in part to targeted funding from HUD and other federal agencies. The lack of permanent affordable housing and insufficient incomes, however, put many households at risk of homelessness. NAEH calls on the federal government to prioritize investment in affordable housing and efforts to improve the economic conditions of low income households.

The report draws on point-in-time counts of homeless persons by 406 local and regional Continuums of Care, entities that coordinate services and funding for homeless programs. Data from the American Community Survey (ACS) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Local Area Unemployment Statistics Program were used to determine populations at risk of homelessness.

The State of Homelessness in America 2016 is available at