As it turns out, increases in the number of people living in poverty (and other effects of the poor economy) may lead to a five percent increase in homelessness over the next three years. This increase totals approximately 74,000 additional homeless people.
The Alliance just penned a short report about this projection (which you can find on our website). The report projects increases from a current baseline estimate of 1.6 million homeless people (estimate courtesy of the AHAR) and takes into account increases in deep poverty, which is defined as people with household incomes below half of the poverty line and considered a risk factor for homelessness. According to the Census, deep poverty affected an unprecedented 20.5 million people in 2010. Nationally, 6.7 percent of people live in deep poverty.
What does this mean? And what can we do?
It means that, without intervention, another 74,000 people will experience homelessness. And in fact, as we explain in the report, that may be a conservative estimate. The economy has been hard on everyone but it’s been especially hard on poor people, are facing stagnant unemployment, declining incomes, and rising severe housing cost burdens (which is when you spend 50 percent or more of your monthly income on rent).
But what about those interventions? These projections are made at a time funding for programs that prevent and end homelessness may face significant cuts at the state, local, and federal levels, leaving many without any public resources to weather their economic turmoil.
But we can make another choice. As the Alliance recommends in the report, we can choose to reinvest in housing-focused homeless assistance programs to deter a growth in homelessness.
We’ve done it before – and successfully. In 2009, the Alliance projected that homelessness would increase significantly due to the recession. That increase was mitigated by the stimulus funded Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP). In fact, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, HPRP has prevented and ended homelessness for one million Americans.
And now, as the effects of the down economy persist, we can do it again. We can take the steps necessary to prevent the projected increases in homelessness and assist vulnerable people back into stable housing. But we need to choose to make ending homelessness a national priority.
The question is – will we?
You can find this publication, Increases in Homelessness on the Horizon, on the Alliance website.