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HUD: U.S. Homeless Population Rises in 2017

For the first time in seven years, the U.S. homeless population increased in 2017.  Granted, the rise did not represent a huge statistical jump, but any increase is too large and serves as a poignant reminder of the immense challenge our country faces in ending homelessness. Our local, state and federal governments are making good-faith efforts to address this issue, but it's obvious they need a helping hand. 

The increase is detailed in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) recent 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress.

Each year, on a single night in January, jurisdictions across the country count the number of their residents who are experiencing homelessness. Those counted include those in shelters and those who are unsheltered. The resulting point-in-time (PIT) counts for each jurisdiction are compiled by HUD into AHAR to present a comprehensive look at the size and scope of the nation's homeless population.

On a single night in January 2017, 553,742 people were experiencing homelessness, according to AHAR. The figure represents a less than 1 percent increase from January 2016. HUD attributes the increase to "a 9 percent increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness in unsheltered locations, which was partially offset by a 3 percent decline in the number of people experiencing homelessness in sheltered locations."

Sixty-five percent of those experiencing homelessness in January 2017 were in emergency shelters or transitional housing while the other 35 percent were unsheltered, according to AHAR.

Here are some of the other key findings from the 2017 AHAR:

o The number of people experiencing homelessness in families with children decreased. According to AHAR, the decrease from 2016 to 2107 was 5 percent - 10,055 fewer people and 3,294 fewer family households experienced homelessness in 2017.

o The number of veterans experiencing homelessness increased for the first time since 2010. Still, the figure has dropped by 45 percent since 2009.

o A long-term drop in chronic homelessness. The number of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness, meaning someone with a disability who has been continuously homeless for one year or more, has declined by more than 19,000 people between 2010 and 2017 (18 percent).

o Overall homelessness also has been consistently declining. Even though there was a slight increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness between 2016 and 2017, homelessness has still declined by more than 83,000 people since 2010 (13 percent).

o Most states experienced a drop in homelessness in 2017. The number of people experiencing homelessness declined in 30 states while increasing in 20 states between 2016 and 2017. States with the largest decreases in homelessness were Georgia (-2,735 people), Massachusetts (-2,043) and Florida (-1,369); the largest increases were in California (16,136), New York (3,151), and Oregon (715).

Where do we go from here?
As you can see, the 2017 AHAR contains some good and bad news. But at Shelters to Shutters, we believe it's time for a rethinking of how we fight homelessness in this country. Private businesses must be more engaged on this issue and commit to hiring ready-to-work homeless individuals - of which there are thousands upon thousands - and helping them also find homes.

We've seen this dynamic play out very successfully in the multifamily industry, where we've partnered with more than more than 20 apartment management companies to place people experiencing homelessness in onsite, entry-level jobs and provide them with housing at the same communities at which they work. Since its founding in 2014, S2S has moved more than 100 people out of homelessness in markets throughout the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, South and Texas.

Combating and ending homelessness is massive endeavor. This is a problem that can affect anyone from young children to veterans. Ending it will require rigorous efforts from the private and public sectors as well as nonprofits.

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