“The fact that homeless stayed flat in the midst of a recession is certainly counterintuitive,” Nan Roman,president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness,said at a news conference.
All national homeless subpopulations except for those not living in shelters declined from 2009 to 2011,according to the report,“The State of Homelessness in America 2012.”
Homeless didn’t increase because the federal government invested $1.5 billion in stimulus funds in the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program,Roman said.
HPRP helped keep people in their homes,or failing that,got them quickly into a new place to live,Roman said.
She said the group expected to find more homeless people,but the federal money and programs focusing on quickly housing homeless people seemed to have worked,she said.
Though each subpopulation decreased nationally except for those not in shelters,almost half of the states had increases in their overall homeless population. Nearly a fifth of states had increases in the chronically homeless,21 had increases in homeless families,16 had increases in homeless veterans and 27 had increases in homeless people living on the street,according to the report.
State variation in overall homeless population ranged from a 33 percent decrease in Rhode Island to a 102 percent increase in Wyoming. The state,however,has the fourth-smallest overall homeless population at 1,038,according to the report. California,which had a 2 percent increase,has a homeless population of 135,928.
An area of concern for NAEH officials is the number of those who end up living with friends,families or others. They have a one in 12 chance of becoming homeless,according to the report.
“The double-up population that we look at in our report is looking at those that are very close to poverty,” Pete Witte,research associate at the National Alliance to End Homelessness,said.
Roman said that,often,those who become homeless lived with someone else first.
“Homelessness is sort of a cascading process,” Roman said. “For most people,it’s not that they have a house and get evicted,and then show up at the shelter the next day.”
More than 40 percent of adults in families who use homeless shelters and 30 percent of all homeless shelter users were doubled up before they entered the shelter system,according to the 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.
“One of those data that is really,really compelling to me are the number of households – the increase – in doubled-up households,” Rep. Gwen Moore,D-Wis.,said. “This is one of the major problems that we have in Wisconsin.”
The HPRP funding that Roman attributes to helping prevent an increase in homelessness will end in the fall. She said she doubted the program would be continued.
“The funds are definitely important,but the HPRP funded more innovative approach. It wasn’t the approach we had been taking previously,” Roman said. “We really needed to be focused much more on prevention.”
Reach reporter Jordain Carney at [email protected] or 202-326-9861. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.