A new federal report finds that the number of homeless people declined 2.1 percent over the year to 636,017, cabinet officials accounted during a conference call Tuesday.
The figure is based on a comparison of counts of the homeless population made during a single night in January 2010 and again in January 2011. In addition to the overall decline, the number of homeless people in every category included in the study also fell, including homeless veterans, homeless families, and chronically homeless people. The homeless population was counted and estimated in more than 3,000 localities "Even in difficult times, we've made tangible progress in addressing homelessness in America," Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said during the call. Since 2007, the homeless population has declined by 5.3 percent. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan attributed the positive numbers to the Obama administration's efforts, and in particular HUD’s $1.5 billion Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program, which was developed as part of the 2009 stimulus package. Interestingly, the positive news comes at a time when many states are fearful of the impacts of future budget cuts, set to take effect in just over a year, as a result of federal efforts to cut the debt. Some programs that help vulnerable populations, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Medicaid, are exempt from those cuts. But others aren't. The federal Women, Infants, and Children program, is on pace to see its funding drop from $6.7 billion to $6.1 billion in 2013, according to estimates from Federal Funds Information for States, which tracks federal spending. The LIHEAP program, which helps poor people pay their heating bills, would drop from $4.7 billion to less than $4.3 billion. The study found a particularly big decrease -- 13 percent -- in the number of homeless people who aren't sleeping in shelters. Overall, about two-thirds of homeless people stay in shelters. Homelessness among veterans fell nearly 12 percent. Still, not every state had stellar numbers. Homelessness was up several places, including California (2,997 or 2.3 percent), Texas (1,790 or 5.1 percent), Georgia (1,139 or 5.7 percent), Missouri (867 or 10.7 percent) and North Carolina (705 or 5.8 percent). Last year, HUD made several changes to how it defines homelessness, but those changes haven't taken effect and aren't reflected in the count. Below, view HUD's compilation of homelessness by region.