Published May 1, 2007 | May 2007 issue
Three-quarters of a million people are homeless in America on a given night, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
That estimate, published in HUD’s first-ever Annual Homeless Report to Congress, is based on data from two main sources. The first is a count of people who used emergency or transitional housing services at any time during a three-month period from February to April 2005. The count was obtained from a nationally representative sample of 80 communities that have implemented Homeless Management Information Systems, an electronic data system that collects information about people who access homelessness services. The second main data source is a one-night count, conducted in January 2005, of sheltered and unsheltered homeless people in 3,800 cities and counties nationwide.
The counts indicate that on a given night in the U.S., there are approximately 415,000 homeless people living in shelters. A demographic analysis of this group reveals 59 percent are minorities and 45 percent are African American. Nearly 25 percent are minors. A full 25 percent of sheltered homeless adults have disabilities, such as severe mental illness or chemical dependency, and 19 percent are military veterans. An additional 339,000 homeless people are living in locations not fit for habitation, such as streets, encampments and abandoned buildings, bringing the total estimated homeless population to 754,000.
HUD cautions that these results are imperfect due to possible sampling errors and other limitations of the data sources. The agency predicts greater accuracy in future reports, as methods of collecting data on homelessness continue to improve. To access the report, visit www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/homeless/ahar.cfm.