National Alliance to End Homelessness Releases new report
BOSTON - Today, January 13, 2009, the Homelessness Research Institute of the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NEAH) released its second Homelessness Counts report, the first report to track changes in homelessness on both a state and national level over time. According to the report, chronic homelessness in Massachusetts was reduced by 6 percent, due in part to increased investments in Housing First, a strategy aimed at reducing chronic homelessness by
stabilizing individuals in permanent housing as an immediate first step. The report also reveals however that family homelessness rose by 15 percent over the two year span.
The report, which contains both state and national data, shows a 10 percent decrease in homelessness in the nation, from 744,313 per night in January 2005 to 671,859 per night in January 2007. This includes a 28 percent decrease in chronic (long-term) homelessness and an 18 percent decrease in family homelessness. While overall homelessness has declined, the picture varied among the states, with 36 percent reporting increases in homelessness and the rest reporting decreases.
Massachusetts reported a slight increase in homelessness overall, rising 3 percent from 2005 to 15,127 persons in 2007. The number of individuals experiencing chronic
homelessness dropped to 2,790 from 2,963 in 2005. The number of "unsheltered
homeless," individuals sleeping on the street or other places not meant for human habitation also dropped significantly (22%) to 1,414. Research shows that unsheltered homeless people are often more vulnerable to illness, drug abuse, and violence than their sheltered counterparts. Families, however, did not fair as well during the two year span, according the NAEH report. In 2007 family homelessness was on the rise, with 6,835 individuals in families lacking permanent homes.
"As the economic recession extends, we have seen evidence that the number of families in crisis continues to rise," said Michael K. Durkin, president and CEO of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. "This report gives credence that methods, like Housing First, which focus on preventing and ending homelessness, are working to minimize chronic homelessness. We need to expand what we know is working to ensure that Massachusetts children and families do not have to endure homelessness."
The City of Boston's Annual Homeless Census, which took place on December 15, 2008, revealed that children are the fastest growing homeless population in Boston, rising 24 percent, from 1,850 to 2,288. A number of factors contribute to homelessness - lack of income, eviction due to foreclosure, physical health and disability, mental health and trauma, substance abuse, and weak social networks - but the NEAH report points to a lack of affordable housing, both in Massachusetts and across the nation is the primary driver.
"Our hope is that this year the new Administration and Congress will make ending the tragedy of homelessness an important part of their plans for change," said Nan Roman, President of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. "We encourage them to use the upcoming economic recovery bill to help people who lose their jobs or are evicted as the result of foreclosure to avoid homelessness. Small amounts of money for rent or utilities can help people stay in their homes. Furthermore, investing in affordable housing through initiatives like the National Housing Trust Fund will help ensure that no one is without a home."
The 2005 and 2007 estimates are compilations of point-in-time counts collected by local Continuums of Care (CoCs) -- the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defined jurisdictions that oversee homeless services and are required to count their homeless populations every other year on one night in January. As such, the report provides data on CoCs within states as well. Despite limitations, the estimates act as a tool for assessing the progress the nation has made on reducing homelessness.
Data for every state and community (CoC) for which data are available, as well as an explanation of the methods used to collect the data, are included in the full report.
To download a full copy of the report, visit: www.endhomelessness.org
For more information on United Way's housing efforts, visit: