The number of people who are homeless, defined as those sleeping outside and in homeless assistance programs, continues to decrease despite the fact that the size of low-income populations in at-risk housing situations remains significantly above pre-recession levels.
These decreases are likely due in part to the effectiveness of targeted federal funding to address homelessness administered by a variety of federal agencies, including HUD, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Education. These federal programs and the public and private homeless assistance efforts in states and local communities have increasingly shifted to a focus on permanent housing solutions, such as permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing. Since 2007, permanent supportive housing capacity has grown 69 percent nationally and, since beginning to be funded by HUD McKinney-Vento homeless assistance programs in 2013, rapid re-housing capacity has grown 204 percent nationally.
Homelessness may be decreasing, probably due in part to improvements in homeless assistance and increasing investment in proven solutions by the federal government, but this alone cannot overcome the inability of low-income households to afford housing. Housing is difficult to access and maintain for a large swath of the American public due to a lack of affordable housing stock combined with insufficient and stagnant incomes. This was the case prior to the recession, worsened during the recession, and has not improved substantially since the end of the recession. In fact, it appears that lower-income populations may not be experiencing the same benefits of the improving economy as those in higher income levels despite decreases in unemployment. And, the recovery of the housing market is making housing even more difficult to afford than earlier in the recovery when rents remained lower. Simultaneously, many low-income assistance programs are facing federal spending cuts and caps. The homeless assistance system is doing what it can to serve those in the country with the most desperate housing needs, but the federal government should prioritize investment in affordable housing and other efforts to improve economic conditions for low-income populations
Dakota Woodlands, 3430 Wescott Woodlands, Eagan, MN 55123 | Telephone: 651-456-9110 | www.dakotawoodlands.org