2013 AHAR Shows Decreases in Chronic and Veteran Homelessness

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) One CPD Resource Exchange email list recently sent a message summarizing HUD’s 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.  This report contains some outstanding news; measurable, sustained decreases in chronic and veteran homelessness!  (Plus, it has occurred in spite of our ongoing recession!)

Based on data reported by more than 3,000 cities and counties, last January’s one-night estimate reveals a 24 percent drop in homelessness among Veterans and a 16 percent reduction among individuals experiencing long-term or chronic homelessness since 2010. HUD’s estimate also found the largest decline in the number of persons in families experiencing homelessness since the Department began measuring homelessness in a standard manner in 2005…

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said this:

“If we’re going to end homelessness as we know it, we need a continued bipartisan commitment from Congress to break the cycle trapping our most vulnerable citizens between living in a shelter or a life on the streets. I understand these are tough budget times but these are proven strategies that are making a real difference. We simply can’t balance our budget on the backs of those living on the margins.”

This progress has occurred in the context of the Obama administration’s Opening Doors program, a cross-department road map shared among 19 federal agencies aimed at ending veteran homelessness by 2015 and child, youth, and family homelessness by 2020.  The reduction in homelessness is primarily attributed to the HUD-VASH voucher program, and expanded permanent supportive housing programs in local communities.

Great news like this reminds me that we know how to end homelessness (house people!  And support them in maintaining their housing!), and that once you factor in emergency services (police, ambulance, ER, etc.) and the costs of homelessness (employability, social connections, etc.) we can do it for something like the same amount we spend now.  Personally, I’d be happy to pay a bit more in taxes if I was confident it would result in more people being housed, but my point is that it’s probably not even necessary; we just need to allocate our resources differently, perhaps shifting some of the savings on emergency services into permanent housing programs.

News like this reminds me that there is no moral or practical reason why any of our neighbors need to continue experiencing homelessness.  Only a bias toward the status quo stands between us and a housing system that works for everyone.

News like this gives me a sense of urgency.  Those who will suffer homelessness tonight stuffer needlessly!  What can we do, today, to help create a better housing system?

Is there any way I can help you in that work?

Can you feel it?