Penn Researchers Find Number of Homeless Continues to Decline

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Media Contact:Jill DiSanto | jdisanto@upenn.edu | 215-898-4820November 26, 2013

Homelessness across the United States continues to decline, according to a new report co-authored by University of Pennsylvania researchers.

In 2013, there were 610,042 people homeless on a given night. While 65 percent were living in emergency shelters or transitional housing, 35 percent were living in places not usually used for housing accommodations, such as cars, airports, parks, abandoned buildings or bus or train stations.

Nearly one quarter of the homeless people counted were younger than 18. For the past six years, Dennis Culhane, a Penn School of Social Policy & Practice professor and an expert in homelessness and housing policy, has worked with the research firm Abt Associates, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development to issue the “Annual Homelessness Assessment Report” to Congress.

Culhane’s research and collaboration with government agencies has been instrumental in a national shift in how society addresses homelessness.

As a part of HUD’s annual survey, on a single night in January each year in 3,000 municipalities, field workers add up the number of people living in emergency shelters and other locations.

The report’s key findings include:

·      Between 2012 and 2013, homelessness declined by about 4 percent. 

·      Since 2007, homelessness has declined by 9 percent. However, there were 1.48 million people, including children, of all races and ethnicities using shelters.

·      Unsheltered homelessness has declined by 23 percent since 2007.

·      Chronic homelessness declined by 25 percent between 2007 and 2013.

·      Homelessness among veterans has declined each year since 2010. 

Culhane also serves as the director of research for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans.

The National Center is a combination of research and programs working together to make sure that the VA is designing the most effective programs based on key information and data,” Culhane said.

The National Center’s research staff also includes other standing and associated faculty members from the School of Social Policy & Practice, including T.J. Ghose, Irene Wong, Tom Byrne, Ann Elizabeth Montgomery, Vince Kane and John Kuhn.  The group examines the demography, prevalence and epidemiology of homeless veterans and develops and tests ways to address the issue.

This year, the survey counted 57,849 homeless veterans. While 60 percent were located in shelters or transitional housing programs, 40 percent were in unsheltered locations.

Between 2009 and 2013, homelessness among veterans has declined by 24 percent. 

In 2009, when the VA formed the National Center, it was able to reach 35,000 homeless veterans annually, with half exiting the programs as still homeless. But, now, Culhane said, the VA will place or stabilize nearly 150,000 homeless veterans in permanent housing each year.

Within the last year alone, the number of homeless veterans has been reduced by 8 percent.

Researchers attribute the decline to enhanced funding for certain government programs and the teamwork of nearly 20 agencies.

The report finds, however, that several cities showed an increase in the homeless population. New York saw a 13 percent increase and Los Angeles 27 percent.

Five states account for more than half of the nation’s homeless population in 2013: California, New York, Florida, Texas and Massachusetts, according to the report.

The full report is here.

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