Why fewer Americans are now homeless

The country has witnessed a surprising 17% decline from 2005, thanks to effective federal programs -- which are now threatened.

By Aimee Picchi Aug 28, 2013 2:43PM

File photo of a homeless man in New York City (© Mark Lennihan/AP Photo)Even as many Americans continue to struggle amid a tepid economic recovery, there's one piece of good news about some of the country's poorest citizens. That's the startling decline in homelessness during the past decade. 

The number of homeless Americans fell to about 634,000 individuals last year, or a 17% drop from roughly 763,000 in 2005, according to a study from the National Alliance to End Homelessness. 

The decline may be even more striking given the negative trends crimping Americans' pocketbooks. The unemployment rate stands at 7.4%, still well above the 5% rate enjoyed during the summer of 2005.

What's the reason for the decline in homelessness? It started with President George W. Bush's "housing first" program, which addressed the problem by aiming to provide shelter to the homeless before dealing other issues, such as substance abuse, The Atlantic notes.

Then the stimulus package in 2009 passed right after Barack Obama took office dedicated a $1.5 billion program geared to solving the problem, and the Obama administration in 2010 announced a 10-year federal plan to eradicate the issue, The Atlantic adds. 

But clouds may be gathering. Sequestration has led to cuts in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which will affect more than 100,000 homeless and formerly homeless people, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

It's possible that the hard-won gains against homelessness might be lost because the spending reductions will require some of beneficiaries to be moved from housing or shelter programs, the group notes. 

At the same time, some communities are expressing greater intolerance toward the homeless. Witness Columbia, S.C. That town has approved a plan to sweep homeless people out of sight by giving them a choice: either go to jail, or to a shelter on the edge of town. 

But Columbia isn't an outlier, given that more cities are enacting ordinances to criminalize homelessness. Between 2009 to 2011, laws against camping in public spaces increased by 7%, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.

But as some homeless advocates point out, criminalizing the problem may only make it harder for those people to get a foothold in the economy -- and lead to another cycle of homelessness.

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi.

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Aug 28, 2013 3:23PM

The only reason there are fewer homeless is because their relatives have taken alot of them in cause they don't want them on the streets.


There are now 2, 3, even 4 generations of families squeezing into tiny houses to prevent being

homeless. These statistics never show up on these polls.....wonder why?


I'm sick of the whole mess. We REALLY need to take back this country.

Aug 28, 2013 4:09PM

I remember going into the homeless shelter in Pontiac.  over 90 able bodied males.  we offered 12 an hour cash, we'd pick them up and drop them off and feed them lunch.  3 said they'd take the job, 1 showed up and he wanted his pay an hour before lunch and quit. 

Aug 28, 2013 5:08PM

Solving the homeless issue has always been a complex problem.  Drug use, prior incarceration and mental illness (PTSD vets), have prevented them from employment and having a place to live in on a regular basis.


Very few people choose to be homeless.  It's a hard life filled with hunger, disease and discomfort.


Having a program in place to keep them safe is often  better than letting the police and legal system handle them.  Jail space costs money too at the rate of over $40,000 a year per inmate.


So where do you want to spend your tax money?

Aug 28, 2013 4:45PM
Hmmmmm Another Wonderful Lie from the same people that Donated to Obamas Campaigns.  
Aug 28, 2013 5:39PM
Less homeless where? ... I see more and more of them all over the place now-a-days from FL-WY
Aug 28, 2013 6:48PM

This article was summed up perfectly by Mark Twain:


"There are three kinds of lies--- Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics."

Aug 28, 2013 6:46PM
Don't believe it.  The government has all kinds of ways to dink with the numbers such as the unemployment numbers.  They don't count all those that have "dropped off the list" even if they don't have jobs, don't count second income jobs, don't count full time students.  The cost of living numbers they have removed everything one needs to live such as gas, heating oil, housing- people lives  under a bridge and don't drive to work.  But congress has their raises figured on the real cost of living numbers with all those things still added in.  So now we have one more number dinked with to make things look good.  But lies is all they know how to spout.  And I have come across an article where congress voted it legal for the press to lie to the public.    
Aug 28, 2013 6:26PM
I have been homeless since December 2012. I don't chose to be homeless! I am disabled due to MS and my husband left our home & marriage for greener pastures. I only receive $749 per month disability. I live in my truck and sleep in parking lots .I have tried every government housing project and there is a 3 to 5 year waiting list. I don't use the shelters for several reasons. I don't want to take a bed from someone who has no shelter from the elements. The sign up is at 4pm but you can't enter til 7.The list is full by 4:15. I have to drive 20 miles to get to shelters because they are the closest to where I am based. I have a pro bono lawyer who in 22 months has yet to get me a penny in spousal support or alimony. He was upfront and told me his paying clients come first. So I will remain homeless until I get alimony or spousal support or until I make it to top of the waiting list.
Aug 28, 2013 5:07PM

NOT a Obama fan but he gives the money away that is one reason and maybe they are getting JOBS

I hope they are. get tired of all the bums asking for money every day I walk out the door

Aug 28, 2013 4:38PM
17% drop for 17 trillion.  I like easy math.
Aug 28, 2013 6:39PM

This article is so riddled with lies and half-truths it's unbelieveable.


Aug 28, 2013 6:55PM
I guess they track these bums like they track unemployment. Eventually you don't exist in the data base so you don't count.
Aug 29, 2013 9:07AM
If you believe there are less homeless, then you also believe that about 30- 50% of homeless people are NOT vets, the recession ended years ago, the NSA isn't spying on you, the government doesn't murder citizens without trial and Obamacare is good for citizens and the healthcare industry.
Aug 28, 2013 6:11PM
This is a lie. They wouldn't know anything without a census of the homeless which never happens.
Aug 28, 2013 7:23PM
Explain to me how any federal program has reduced the number of homeless?  The only reason I can see that there are less homeless is because Americans cannot afford to be as generous in giving because the economy is still struggling.
What a poorly written article!
Aug 30, 2013 10:22PM
What business is it of anybody why someone is homeless?  It's nobody's business if you're rich, maxed out on credit cards,  struggling in your own way.....afraid YOU might end up homeless. You don't like homeless people then ignore them. Where the hell has compassion gone. Take care of your own house or help or shut the **** up!!!
Aug 29, 2013 2:38PM



1. Families are banding together.

2. Social programs are actually working.

3. They are becoming CRACKERS!


Personally, I believe it's #1.



Aug 29, 2013 6:45AM
Do you have any idea how STUPID this article sounds. Sequestration- - - - - there have been NO CUTS- - and just because you keep saying it does NOT make it true! ! And if there were cuts- - HOW do you explain how the deficit is approaching 17 trillion when it was 16 trillion when ''POTUS'' was reelected less than one year ago ? ? ? ? I'm all ears- - please explain! ! ! SEQUESTRATION- - -translates- - to a CUT in the INCREASE in spending- - - IE instead of every federal program getting an AUTOMATIC 8% INCREASE- -  (because we do not and have NOT had a budget in five years; placing every program on AUTOPILOT)- - - - it was CUT to 5 or 6 %- - still getting 5 or 6 % MORE then last year. Do you know of any MIDDLE CLASS person who gets an 8 % raise - - - EVERY YEAR ! ! !    I DO NOT THINK SOOOOO! ! !Last time I looked- - the ''average American's'' income is down approximately 5000 dollars  OR 8 to 10 % from what it was 5 years ago. So take your liberal - - bleeding heart BS- - along with your GLOBAL WARMING- - - and pitch it to those MORONS on the LEFT- - you know- - Pelosi, Biden, Schumer, Murray, Boxer, and the rest of the HERD!
Aug 28, 2013 10:22PM

Listen, anyone that believes being homeless, is not by choice, is wacko!


Yes some have had bad experiences, and bad luck, with "happenings"

but for the most part, they made bad choices...it's that simple.....you tell me,

as a young person, having a rough , life, no or little education, GO MILITARY,

keep your nose clean, retire...How hard is that?

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