Homelessness Declines in Most Communities of the U.S. with Increases Reported in High-Cost Areas

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Home Programs Resources Training
Part 1: Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness
Homelessness Declines in Most Communities of the U.S. with Increases Reported in High-Cost Areas
Homelessness crept up in the U.S., especially among individuals with long-term disabling conditions, according to the latest national estimate by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD’s 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress found that 553,742 persons experienced homelessness on a single night in 2017, an increase of .7 percent since last year. Homelessness among families with children declined 5.4 percent nationwide since 2016, while local communities report the number of persons experiencing long-term chronic homelessness and Veterans experiencing homelessness has increased.
There is a great deal of variation in the data in different parts of the country, however, and many places continue to see reductions in homelessness. Thirty (30) states and the District of Columbia reported decreases in homelessness between 2016 and 2017. Challenges in some major metropolitan areas, however, have had a major impact on the national trend lines.
For example, the City and County of Los Angeles reported a nearly 26 percent increase in overall homelessness since 2016, primarily among those persons found in unsheltered locations. Meanwhile, New York City reported a 4.1 increase, principally among families in emergency shelters and transitional housing. Excluding these two areas, the estimated number of Veterans experiencing homelessness in other parts of the nation decreased 3.1 percent since 2016.
“In many high-cost areas of our country, especially along the West Coast, the severe shortage of affordable housing is manifesting itself on our streets,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “With rents rising faster than incomes, we need to bring everybody to the table to produce more affordable housing and ease the pressure that is forcing too many of our neighbors into our shelters and onto our streets. This is not a federal problem—it’s everybody’s problem.”
“The fact that so many parts of the country are continuing to reduce homelessness gives us confidence that our strategies—and the dedicated efforts of communities to embrace best practices—have been working,” said Matthew Doherty, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council of Homelessness (USICH). “At the same time, we know that some communities are facing challenges that require us to redouble our efforts across all levels of government and the public and private sectors, and we are committed to doing that work.”
“Our joint community-based homelessness efforts are working in most communities across the country. Despite a slight increase in overall Veteran homelessness, I am pleased that the majority of communities in the U.S. experienced declines over the past year,” said U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin. “VA remains committed to helping Veterans find stable housing. We will continue to identify innovative local solutions, especially in areas where higher rents have contributed to an increase in homelessness among Veterans.”
HUD’s national estimate is based upon data reported by approximately 3,000 cities and counties across the nation. Every year on a single night in January, planning agencies called Continuums of Care (CoCs) and tens of thousands of volunteers seek to identify the number of individuals and families living in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs and in unsheltered settings. These one-night ‘snapshot’ counts, as well as full-year counts and data from other sources (U.S. Housing Survey, Department of Education), are crucial in understanding the scope of homelessness and measuring progress toward reducing it.

Key Findings of HUD’s 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report:

On a single night in January 2017, state and local planning agencies (CoCs) reported:
  • 553,742 people were homeless representing an overall .7 percent increase from 2016 and a 13.1 percent decrease since 2010.
  • Most homeless persons (360,867) were located in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs while 192,875 persons were unsheltered.
  • The number of families with children experiencing homelessness declined 5.4 percent since 2016 and 27 percent since 2010.
  • Veteran homelessness increased 1.5 percent (or 585 persons) since January 2016, primarily in California cities. Since 2010, however, Veteran homelessness declined nationally by 46 percent. On a single night in January 2017, 40,056 veterans were experiencing homelessness.
  • Chronic or long-term homelessness among individuals increased 12.2 percent over 2016 levels though declined by 18 percent (or 19,100 persons) since 2010.
  • The number of unaccompanied homeless youth and children in 2017 is estimated to be 40,799. This year, HUD and local communities launched a more intense effort to more accurately account for this important, difficult to count population. HUD will treat 2017 as a baseline year for purposes of tracking progress toward reducing youth homelessness.

Homelessness Among All Persons

The total number of persons experiencing homelessness on a single night last January is 553,742, an increase of 0.7 percent from January 2016 largely attributed to the jump in unsheltered homelessness in larger cities in the West Coast.

Family Homelessness

There were 58,000 families with children experiencing homelessness on a single night in 2017, a decline of 5.4 percent from the year before and a 27 percent reduction since 2010. These significant reductions in family homelessness is largely attributed to the expansion of Rapid Rehousing Programs across the country and a concerted effort by local planners to reallocate scarce resources in a more strategic way. These ‘Housing First’ models have proven to be a more effective and efficient response to families experiencing temporary crisis as well as those enduring the most chronic forms of homelessness.

Veteran Homelessness

Local communities reported a total of 40,056 Veterans experiencing homelessness in January of 2017, an increase of 1.5 percent since 2016, primarily in the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County. Excluding this area, the national homelessness estimate among Veterans decreased 3.2 percent since 2016. However, as a consequence of intense planning and targeted intervention, homelessness among Veterans has been reduced 46 percent since 2010, prompting a number of States and local communities to declare an effective end to Veteran homelessness in their areas (read more about the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness). This decline is largely attributed to the close collaboration between HUD and the VA. For example, since 2010, more than 480,000 veterans and their family members have been permanently housed, rapidly rehoused, or prevented from falling into homelessness through HUD’s targeted housing vouchers and VA’s homelessness programs.

Chronic Homelessness

Long-term or chronic homelessness among individuals with disabilities declined 18 percent since 2010. This reduction is due in part to a concerted effort to make available more permanent supportive housing opportunities for people with disabling health conditions who otherwise continually cycle through local shelters or the streets. Research demonstrates that for those experiencing chronic homelessness, providing permanent housing, coupled with appropriate low-barrier supportive services, is the most effective solution for ending homelessness. This ‘housing first’ approach also saves the taxpayer considerable money by interrupting a costly cycle of emergency room, hospital, detox, and even jail visits.

Homelessness in High-Cost Areas

HUD’s 2017 homeless estimate points to a significant increase in the number of reported persons experiencing unsheltered homelessness, particularly in California where there is a significant lack of affordable housing. Last January, Los Angeles and Los Angeles County counted a total of 55,188 individuals living in sheltered and unsheltered settings, an increase of nearly 26 percent over January 2016.
The severe lack of affordable housing in California is also affecting the level of Veteran homelessness. In Los Angeles County alone, Veteran homelessness increased 64 percent since January 2016 which largely accounts for the 1.5 percent increase of Veteran homelessness nationwide.
Visit the HUD Exchange at https://www.hudexchange.info

SOAR December E-News

Meet our new SOAR Liaison Amanda!
Meet our new SOAR Liaison Amanda!
December e-News
Amanda Starkey Headshot
Amanda Starkey, SOAR Liaison

Welcoming New SOAR Liaison Amanda Starkey

Please extend a hearty SOAR welcome to the SOAR TA Center's new SOAR Liaison, Amanda Starkey! Prior to joining PRA she worked as a SOAR Specialist in Colorado and Michigan. In addition, she also worked as a consultant with PRA, completing SOAR Online Course practice case reviews. Amanda has a B.S. in Addictions Studies and an M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Detroit Mercy.
In her new role at the TA Center, she will serve as state liaison. She is also a subject matter expert in co-occurring disorders. Amanda can be reached at astarkey@prainc.com. Welcome to the SOAR TA Center, Amanda! We are so happy to have you join us! 

SOAR Success Stories

Homeless Advocacy Project in Philadelphia Celebrates 10 Years of SOAR Success

This December, the Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP) in Philadelphia celebrates 10 years of increasing access to Social Security disability benefits using the SOAR model. During this time they have maintained a 98 percent approval rate on almost 2,000 SSI/SSDI applications. Michele Levy, HAP's Managing Attorney, describes the achievement: "HAP has spent the past 10 years striving to expand our SOAR Project to serve as many populations experiencing homelessness as possible—transition age youth, Veterans treated at our VA Medical Center, mental health court defendants, housing-first participants, shelter-resistant men and women on the street and in safe havens, people with severe mental illness working with targeted case management, and others. Our dedicated partners at SSA and the Pennsylvania Department of Disability Determination Services/Pennsylvania Bureau of Disability Determination have supported all of HAP's SOAR efforts and have been a critical component of our success and quality."

An Ohio Army Veteran's Story of Recovery

Leslie Martinez-Peña, an SSI Specialist in Ohio wrote in to share one client's incredible recovery story:
"One of my success stories is about a 48-year-old man who was residing in the VA domiciliary at Wade Park. I was contacted by his case manager Rita, to discuss whether he could be a potential SOAR applicant. Rita was unsure if he was appropriate because she felt he was not actively engaging in services and may not have enough treatment documentation. While going through the various screening questions with Rita, I believed he was appropriate but I needed to make sure before starting any application. I asked Rita to help coordinate meeting with him and she happily obliged with an appointment the same week.
I was not surprised when he called Rita to cancel the appointment. He gave no explanation and Rita tried to reschedule another time with him but he declined. She gave him my phone number and he actually reached out 2 days later. He expressed interest in doing the application but was currently feeling uneasy and overwhelmed. I listened to his flight of ideas and asked him what day and time worked for him. He responded after much thought and I agreed. I met with him in the comfort of the domiciliary and during the time when the library would be available.
When I met with him, he was guarded, nervous, and kept shaking his leg. I remembered asking about his uncontrollable leg because it was almost jumping from the floor as he shook it. He said, "I am really, really uncomfortable where I'm sitting at. My back is to the door and it's killing me." I immediately offered to move tables and he said he just wanted to move to another chair that faced the door. Once he changed seats, he opened up about his PTSD, anxiety, various surgeries to fix a previous shoulder surgery, his descent into misusing pain medication, and lastly his three suicide attempts. This was an especially heavy appointment because he took such pride of being an Army officer at the prime of his career.
The client was awarded SSI and he immediately moved to the suburbs of Cleveland. He reported renting a small house with a backyard, where he often spends his time sitting and thinking. When I asked what else he is planning for the future, he said that he would hopefully get a therapy dog. He was very appreciative of my services and I told him I was appreciative of his service to our country. I wished him the best of luck and happiness especially in his new home."
Thank you for sharing this success story, Leslie! We hope it inspires our SOAR community to keep SOARing!


SOARing Over Lunch Conference Calls

December 21, 2017; 2:00 p.m. ET
The next SOARing Over Lunch Conference Call will take place Thursday, December 21 at 2:00 p.m. ET! The SOAR TA Center hosts this series of informal monthly calls designed to help support SOAR efforts across the country. Participants can log-in to ask about any SOAR-related question they may have.

SOAR Leadership Academies

The SOAR TA Center is now accepting applications for all Leadership Academies. Visit the SOARWorks website for more information. Leadership Academies are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, and all participants must be approved by their SOAR State Team Lead. All interested participants must complete a Leadership Academy application and submit it for approval. Contact your SOAR TA Center Liaison with any questions.
  • February 6-8, 2018 in Birmingham, Alabama
  • April 24-26, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts

Recent Stories from the SOAR Voices Blog

Closeup of a Microphone
Aerial view of a country road in the fall - the threes are a vibrant red

Partner Updates

HHRN Webinar: Persons with Lived Experience Spotlight Series: Achieving Stability and Recovery with SOAR

December 20, 2017, 1:00–2:15 p.m. ET
Did You Know? Only about 28 percent of individuals who apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)/Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are approved on initial application. For people who experience homelessness and have no one to assist them, that percentage is reduced by more than half.
SAMHSA's Homeless and Housing Resource Network (HHRN) is pleased to announce the first webinar in our Persons with Lived Experience Spotlight Series, "Achieving Stability and Recovery with SOAR."
The first of a four-part series, "Achieving Stability and Recovery with SOAR" will feature two special guests who were able to transform their lives with assistance from SAMHSA's SOAR program and secure access to SSI/SSDI benefits. Joining them, SOAR TA Center Liaison Matt Canuteson will talk about the impact of peer support in SOAR and how it helps improve outcomes and save lives. Together, the experiences of these three presenters will help webinar participants better understand the following:
  • The myriad factors that can contribute to loss of income and homelessness,
  • The benefits of SAMHSA's SOAR program in supporting housing and ending homelessness,
  • How stable income supports the achievement of other recovery supports, and
  • The powerful role of peer support in assisting individuals experiencing or at-risk of homelessness with the SOAR process.
Register for the event

HHRN Webinar: Case Management Spotlight Series: What Does Effective Case Management Really Mean?

December 14, 2017; 12:30–2:00 p.m. ET
"What Does Effective Case Management Really Mean?" is the first webinar in the Case Management in the 21st Century Spotlight Series. This webinar will introduce key elements of effective case management and practical strategies for implementing them.
Gregory A. Shinn, M.S.W., associate director and chief housing officer at the Mental Health Association Oklahoma, and Gabriela Zapata-Alma, director of substance use treatment programs at Thresholds in Illinios, will share their on-the-ground experience and insights that can be immediately applied and tailored to other communities' homeless and behavioral health services. The series is moderated by Pat Tucker, a national expert, speaker, and trainer on empowering individuals experiencing homelessness.
The Case Management in the 21st Century Spotlight Series includes the following webinars and more information about these events is coming soon!
  • January 11: "Show Me Your Outcomes"
  • February 8: "Playing Well in the Sandbox: Cross-organization and Cross-program Partnerships"
  • March 8: "Support from the Top: Administrative and System Supports"
  • April 12: "Case Management: People with Military Experience"
Register for the webinar by 12/13

Funding Corner

Bank of America Charitable Foundation Funding Opportunities

The Bank of America Charitable Foundation is a great potential funding source for SOAR programs across the country, as its list of current funding priorities includes Services for People Experiencing Homelessness and Benefits Access and Referrals. The website describes Benefits Access efforts as, "...transitioning financially distressed, low-to-moderate income individuals and families towards financial stability through bundled services in two core areas--access to benefits and support resources."

Walmart Foundation—State Giving Program

The Walmart Foundation's State Giving Program works to "create opportunities so people can live better," providing grants to 501(c)(3) organizations ranging from $25,000 to $200,000. The State Giving Program invests in all 50 states; Washington, D.C.; and Puerto Rico. The majority of the funding goes to support human services, often supporting programs that provide services and supports so that people are able to access and retain stable housing. 

Federal Updates

Webinar: Electronic Wage Reporting & Other Tools for Disability Beneficiaries

December 12, 2017; 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET
It is important to us to provide world-class customer service to all of our beneficiaries by offering various service delivery options. Some of the ways that we are using technology to enhance customer service is through online tools and mobile applications. The use of technology is not a replacement for traditional in-person and telephone customer service, but another option. During the call, you will hear from a panel of experts who will discuss:
  • Overpayments and disability beneficiaries
  • my Social Security Account online services
  • Online and Mobile Wage Reporting Tools for Disability Beneficiaries
  • Internet Appeals

SSA Announces Updated 2018 Taxable Maximum Amount

In October of each year, the Social Security Administration announces adjustments that take effect the following January that are based on the increase in average wages. Based on the wage data Social Security had at the time of the October 13, 2017 announcement, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) was to increase to $128,700 in 2018, from $127,200 in 2017. The new amount for 2018, based on updated wage data reported to Social Security, is $128,400.

White House VA Hotline Now Fully Staffed and Operational Around the Clock to Serve Nation's Veterans

VA announced that the White House VA Hotline, first launched in June as part of President Donald J. Trump's commitment to reforming VA, is now fully staffed with live agents working to serve Veterans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The hotline, which became 24-hour operational in mid-October, is staffed by a team consisting of more than 90 percent Veterans or a family member of a Veteran. The hotline staffing is in direct response to Veterans' requests to talk to agents who could relate to their experiences.

Talk to Congress Today to Help House 40,000 People Next Year

A lot is happening in Congress this week. Don't let them forget about homelessness programs.
During busy times on the Hill, it is important for your Members of Congress to hear from you.
Last week, Congress passed a sweeping tax overhaul, and now races toward a federal funding deadline later this week. With all the decisions being made on Capitol Hill, we need to stay focused on protecting funding for homelessness programs.

Take 10 minutes to send Congress an email today. Decisions are being made, and we need more money to serve 40,000 more people next year. Your voice can help secure that funding. Use our easy tools to reach out. 


About Us

The National Alliance to End Homelessness is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to solving the problem of homelessness and preventing its continued growth.
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