After Nearly a Decade of Decreases in Homelessness in the United States 2017 May Reveal a Reversal of Fortune

Joe Colletti, PhD
Hub for Urban Initiatives

August 2017 

Every two years, between 2007 and 2015, there has been a decrease in the total number of persons homeless in the United States according to point-in-time homeless count information provided to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by Continuums of Care (CoCs).[1] The 400+ CoCs are required by HUD to conduct a sheltered and an unsheltered homeless count every two years, which falls on odd number years.  

The following table notes the decreases that were reported every two years by the CoCs between 2007 and 2015.  

Table 1. # of Persons Who Were Homeless in the United States: 2007 - 2015

 

Year

 

# of Persons Who Were
Homeless in the United States

 

Difference (+/-)

 

 

#

%

2007

647,258

-

-

2009

630,227

-17,031

-2.6

2011

623,788

-6,439

-1.0

2013

591,768

-32,020

-5.1

2015

564,708

-27,060

-4.6

 A comparison of the 2017 point-in-time homeless count information to the 2015 count information may reveal a reversal of fortune when this year’s homeless count information is released by HUD in the fall. This reversal is true for Southern California and likely the State of California as noted in the tables below.  

Thanks to the Southern California Alliance of CoC Leaders[2], a comparison of their 2017 homeless count information was made to the 2015 homeless count. The Alliance consists of 13 CoCs that cover the entire area of Southern California.  

There is a 20.1% increase in the total number of persons reported by the Southern California CoCs between 2015 and 2017 as noted in table 2 below.  

Table 2. Total Number of Persons Counted as Homeless in Southern California in 2015 and 2017.

  

Southern California
Continuum of Care

 

TotalNumber of Persons Counted in 2015

 

TotalNumber of Persons Counted in 2017

  

 

Difference (+/-)

 

 

 

#

%

Glendale

208

168

-40

-19.2

Imperial County

554

1,071

+517

+93.3

Kern County

953

810

-143

-15.0

Long Beach

2,345

1,863

-482

-20.6

Los Angeles County*

41,174

55,188

+14,014

+34.0

Orange County

4,452

4,792

+340

+7.6

Pasadena

632

575

-57

-9.0

Riverside County

2,378

2,406

+28

+1.2

San Bernardino

2,149

1,866

-283

-13.2

San Diego County

8,742

9,116

+374

+4.3

San Luis Obispo County

1,515

1,125

-390

-25.7

Santa Barbara County

1,445

1,489

+44

+3.0

Ventura County

1,417

1,152

-265

-18.7

 

 

 

 

 

Total:

67,964

81,621

+13,657

+20.1

*not including Glendale, Long Beach, and Pasadena, which are cities in Los Angeles County.

The increase is largely due to the significant increase in Los Angeles County. However, the significant increase in Los Angeles County is in line with the increases that other California CoCs are reporting in 2017.

Table 3 was compiled by listing the 10 CoCs in the state of California with the largest totals of persons who were homeless in the year 2015. For these CoCs, the 2017 numbers were added, based on the numbers that were reported to the media or in reports that were released to the public by the CoCs.

The Los Angeles County CoC did not experience the largest increase between 2015 and 2017. Of note, the Alameda County CoC experienced an increase of 39.3% and the Sacramento County CoC 37.8%. Collectively, the 10 CoCs experienced a 23.3% increase between 2015 and 2017 as noted in the table below.  

Table 3. Total Number of Persons Counted as Homeless in Selected California CoCs in 2015 and 2017.

 

Continuum of Care

 

TotalNumber of Persons Counted in 2015

 

TotalNumber of Persons Counted in 2017

  

Difference (+/-)

 

 

 

#

#

Los Angeles County

41,174

55,188

+14,014

+34.0

San Diego County

8,742

9,116

+374

+4.3

San Francisco City/County

6,775

7,499

+724

+10.7

Santa Clara County

6,556

7,394

+838

+12.9

Orange County

4,452

4,792

+340

+7.6

Alameda County

4,040

5,629

+1,589

+39.3

Sonoma County

3,097

2,835

-262

-8.4

Monterey County

2,308

2,837

+529

+22.9

Sacramento County

2,659

3,665

+1,006

+37.8

Riverside County

2,378

2,406

+28

+1.2

 

 

 

 

 

Total:

82,181

101,361

+19,180

+23.3

 HUD will release the 2017 homeless count information during the fall. Then we will know if there was a reversal of fortune regarding the total number of persons who were homeless in the United States during the past two years. Evidence noted in this report suggests that a reversal of fortune occurred, which for many of us aligns with a visible increase in the number of homeless persons we see living along the streets and sidewalks that we used every day for the past couple of years.


[1] 1A "Continuum of Care" is a geographically based group of representatives that carries out the planning responsibilities of the Continuum of Care program, as described in 24 CFR Part 578 [Docket No. FR-5476-I-01] RIN 2506-AC29 Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing: Continuum of Care Program Interim Rule by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These representatives come from organizations that provide services to the homeless, or represent the interests of the homeless or formerly homeless.
[2] The Southern California Alliance of CoC Leaders meet on an on-going basis to support one another regarding efforts to prevent and end homelessness throughout the region.

Comments

I will also be reviewing the homeless trends in the State of Florida. Since 2015, HUD has been changing its focus on how CoC's count and service the homeless. They seem to use a top down approach. Even though COC's have been given greater flexibility by HUD, there still is not a National Collaboration, which I believe is necessary. The same problems still exist in each State. Affordabable housing, jobs and access to health care.
Eugene, you are 100% correct. Why should every community reinvent the wheels when better wheels exist?
We are seeing this trend in Philadelphia as well. All indications are that it is directly linked to the Opioid crisis, more young, white men and locationally, at the hub of known sales and consumption. We have also seen a rise in panhandling.
I have just become aware of the CoC. Amazing work. Yes, there has to be a more detailed way to survey the homeless. The woman with children fall into so many categories who happen to be homeless. There is no need for the city system to contribute to the homeless problem in regards to economics, or mortgages, apartment owners to raise rents or evict without sharing resources to the rentee would be nice. Plus all this affect the children's education if they are not aware they can attend the same school. Thank you for all your hard work.

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