January 10, 2007
A movement to end homelessness is underway. Thousands of stakeholders -- policymakers, advocates, researchers, practitioners, former and current homeless people, community leaders, and concerned citizens -- from across the country are involved in efforts to end homelessness at the local and national level. Today, hundreds of communities are re-tooling their homeless assistance systems and have committed to ending homelessness through local plans. At the federal level, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) homelessness assistance programs are targeting resources to permanent housing, and the Congress and the Bush Administration have committed to ending chronic homelessness by developing 150,000 units of permanent supportive housing for people who have been homeless for long periods. The private sector, through major philanthropic organizations, is engaging and funding efforts that focus on permanent solutions for homeless people. And new research and imaginative policies at the state and local level are paving the way. Taken together, these efforts represent a nationwide effort to end homelessness. How will we know if these efforts are successful? This report lays the groundwork for measuring efforts to end homelessness by establishing a baseline number of homeless people from which to monitor trends in homelessness. We use local point-in-time counts of homeless people to create an estimate of the number of homeless people nationwide. As with all data, the counts included in this report are not perfect and have numerous limitations, but they are the best data available at this time. In January 2005, an estimated 744,313 people experienced homelessness. 56 percent of homeless people counted were living in shelters and transitional housing and, shockingly, 44 percent were unsheltered. 59 percent of homeless people counted were single adults and 41 percent were persons living in families. In total, 98,452 homeless families were counted. 23 percent of homeless people were reported as chronically homeless, which, according to HUD's definition, means that they are homeless for long periods or repeatedly and have a disability. A number of states had high rates of homelessness, including Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington State. In addition, Washington, DC had a high rate of homeless people. These statistics show that far too many people are homeless. There is, however, reason for optimism. During the past five years, community approaches to homelessness have changed and thousands of people are working toward the shared goal of ending homelessness. Measuring their success or failure will depend on collecting and analyzing outcome data, monitoring changes in homelessness populations, and understanding which interventions lead to different outcomes. Yet, up until now, we had no recent data on how many people are homeless in the United States. The data in this report represent the first effort to count homeless people nationwide in 10 years. We hope to make this report an annual report, tracking progress on the efforts to end homelessness nationwide. It is our belief that what gets measured, gets done.