Homeless people still struggling to survive
The recession continued to take its toll as more families with children became homeless for the second straight year, a U.S. government report shows.
The number of families in homeless shelters increased 7% to 170,129 from fiscal year 2008 through fiscal year 2009, a report released today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found. At the same time, the overall number of homeless people in shelters fell 2% to 1.56 million.
“As the nation’s housing and job markets show encouraging signs of recovery, there are still far too many families who are on the brink of becoming homeless or have fallen into our shelter system,” Secretary Shaun Donovan said in a statement.
The annual report counted the homeless in two ways. The first was a census in cities and counties, where volunteers fanned out one night during the last week in January to count those living on streets and in shelters. That count found 643,000 people were homeless. The chronically homeless dropped 10% from 2008 to 111,000.
That decline stems from more local and federal efforts to find the chronically homeless permanent housing and social services, said Nan Roman of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
The second method of counting involved a year-long study of shelter data in 334 communities. It found more families in shelters rented or lived with family before becoming homeless. Families also are staying longer in shelters, from 30 days in 2008 to 36 in 2009.
A 2008 study by the Alliance found 800,000 families were living with extended family, friends or other people because of the economy.
“Probably those are the families that were becoming homeless in 2009,” Roman said.
Dennis Culhane, a University of Pennsylvania professor who studies homelessness and is one of the researchers of the report, said he expects homelessness to drop in 2010, reflecting in part the $1.5 billion in federal stimulus money spent by communities to prevent homelessness.
In New York City, the report found that 30% of homeless families in 2009 were first-time homeless.
Family homelessness declined this year as the city gave more rent subsidies and helped parents find jobs, said Seth Diamond, commissioner of the city’s Department of Homeless Services. There were 8,348 homeless families in city shelters in May, down 7% from October, he said.