The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released Part 1 of its Annual Homelessness Assessment Report for 2016 this past week reporting the number of homeless people, homeless individuals, homeless families, homeless veterans, chronically homeless people, and homeless youth on a given night. In the report, the number of homeless people on a single night was 549,928, a decrease of 2.6% from the year before. Unfortunately, the report noted that the declines were composed entirely of people staying in sheltered locations and that homelessness increased among people without shelter by 2%. The number of homeless persons without shelter increased by 3,089 persons from 173,268 in 2015 to 176,357 in 2016.
Not only does sleeping without shelter leave anyone in that situation vulnerable to death or serious injury from cold weather and violent acts, unsheltered homelessness affects many extremely vulnerable people. Fifty percent of all unsheltered homeless people on a given night in 2016 were either persons in homeless families with children under the age of 18, unaccompanied youth, parenting youth and children of parenting youth, or chronically homeless individuals with a disability who have been continuously homeless for one year or more or have experienced at least four episodes of homelessness comprising at least 12 months in the last three years. Also, 25% of homeless individuals without shelter are women.
Unsheltered homelessness increased among many extremely vulnerable people. The number of unsheltered homelessness increased nationwide among homeless individuals, young homeless families, and homeless youth with 4,398 additional homeless individuals without shelter, 170 additional parenting youth and children of parenting youth without shelter, and 203 additional unaccompanied youth age 18 through 24 without shelter in 2016 compared to the year before. In 2016, there was a 2.9% increase in the number of unsheltered homeless individuals, including an 18.5% increase in unsheltered parenting youth, 15.5% increase in unsheltered children of parenting youth, and 1.4% increase in unsheltered unaccompanied youth age 18 to 24.
Homeless people were without shelter in all fifty states and the District of Columbia on a given winter night in 2016. The five states with the largest number of homeless people without shelter were California, Florida, Washington, Oregon, and Texas with more than 78,000 in California, 15,000 in Florida, 8,000 in Washington and Oregon, and 6,900 in Texas. Although these five states have extremely large numbers of unsheltered homeless individuals and families, more than 1,000 homeless individuals and persons in families were located without shelter on a winter night in each of almost half (23) of the states.
The increase in unsheltered homelessness was widespread and large in many states. Unsheltered homelessness increased in more than half (27) of the states. The five states with the largest increase in homeless people without shelter were Maine, Idaho, New Jersey, Alaska, and Delaware with a 103% increase in Maine, 57% increase in Idaho, 47% increase in New Jersey, 39% increase in Alaska, and 37% increase in Delaware. Although these five states had extremely large increases in the percent of unsheltered homeless individuals and families, there was a double-digit percent increase in homeless persons without shelter in more than one-third (15) of the states.
With the life-endangering impact of sleeping without shelter, no person — family or individual — should be faced without a choice of shelter. To remedy this inadequate state, more affordable housing, permanent supportive housing, rapid rehousing, and section 8 vouchers and employment assistance need to be provided so that no person sleeps without shelter.