For more than two decades, communities have struggled with the complex problem of homelessness, a seemingly intractable issue in cities and small towns across America. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), approximately 634,000 people in the United States were homeless on one night in early 2012. Most people were in shelters, but over 243,000 were unsheltered, living in parks, abandoned buildings with no heat or running water, the back seats of cars, or in other places not intended for human habitation. Of those who are homeless:
However, these point-in-time estimates only take a snapshot of the homelessness problem. The reality is that people move in and out of homelessness and that many more people experience homelessness over the course of the year. Annual estimates find that between 2.3 and 3.5 million people, nearly 1 to 2 percent of the total population, are homeless every year.
The current economic situation presents a new and daunting challenge. Persistent unemployment has historically been associated with rising homelessness, particularly for families with children. Reports from around the country indicate that in some places individual homelessness has decreased, but family homelessness has increased in the past twelve months. Even in the face of these challenges, however, progress over the last decade has created the tools needed to combat the growth of homelessness and transform the way communities address homelessness.
Overview provided by National Alliance to End Homelessness
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