The US homeless population 2007-2016 (HUD)
The positives to take away from the Nation’s Homeless situation in 2016, include a national drop by 15% since 2007, that’s 97,000 fewer Americans living on the streets or in shelters, according to a year-end report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
But when peeking under the hood you find that Obama’s administration shows the biggest decline (31%) in the national homeless population, according to the reports coming from the unsheltered populations. These are people who are living on the streets or in parks, vehicles, or other places not designated for sleeping, as opposed to those in emergency shelters or transitional housing.
Unsheltered homeless tend to be concentrated in smaller cities or less populated regions. And that helps us understand what’s happened since 2007: That year saw the height of the housing bubble, with some of the highest home prices in US history. It also was also the first year when many buyers who purchased homes with loans they couldn’t repay came face to face with that fact—the foreclosure rate doubled.
With homes, expensive and people being kicked out of them, we would expect homelessness to be high. But as home prices fell throughout the recession, even as the economy recovered, we should expect more people to find homes. And the report suggests this was the case: The states with some of the biggest reductions in homelessness in the last nine years include those hardest hit by the housing bubble in 2007, like California, Florida, and New Jersey.
This year, home prices in a national index once again reached the levels of 2007. But today’s housing market, troubled as it is in some areas, is not as dependent on toxic loans, and its foreclosure rate is much lower.
This isn’t the whole story, though. While homelessness has fallen in smaller cities and less-populated regions, the trend is different in major cities where affordable housing has become increasingly expensive. There are more people living in urban homeless shelters in 2016 than in 2007, and the number of unsheltered homeless in major cities has increased for two years running:
That’s why we see the biggest increases in the homeless populations in places like New York, Massachusetts, and Washington DC, all of which are places with steady rising expensive urban housing. If you dig down into the data, you see that while California has seen an overall reduction in homelessness since 2007, but with San Francisco seeing a 22% increase.
These statistics seem to capture the changing problems of the US housing market. In 2007, irresponsible loans inflated a bubble that made homes tougher to afford and made those who purchased them more likely to default and lose their homes.
In 2016, the problem of affordability is simply that too many people want to live in the most economically dynamic cities, and there just aren’t enough affordable homes for them to live in.
Here at Project WeHOPE we have systems and programs in place for clients during a transition into more permanent living conditions. Our case managers handle the transition of our homeless clients into permanent affordable housing from our Transitional Housing Program. Another one of the programs is the H.O.P.E Jobs program where we guide them through skills that they can use to get hired in the job market. A great program to pair with it is our financial security program which helps our clients save, build and establish financial stability. That’s just some of the ways we help the problem of facing homelessness, for more information or ways in which you can help to please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by giving us a call at 650-330-8000.