|HUD No. 22-022
HUD Public Affairs
February 4, 2022
HUD Releases 2021 Annual Homeless Assessment Report Part 1
Report Suggests that COVID-19 Relief Had Positive Impacts on Sheltered Homelessness
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today released its 2021 Annual Homeless Assessment Report Part 1 to Congress (www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/ahar/2021-ahar-part-1-pit-estimates-of-homelessness-in-the-us.html). The report found that more than 326,000 people experienced sheltered homelessness in the United States on a single night in 2021, a decrease of eight percent, from 2020.
"Sheltered homelessness" refers to people experiencing homelessness who were found in emergency shelters, transitional housing, or other temporary settings. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, HUD waived the requirement for communities to conduct the count of unsheltered homelessness in 2021. In January 2021, 138 communities, 36 percent of all communities, conducted full unsheltered counts and an additional 72 communities conducted a partial count, in which total unsheltered counts were reported but not household or demographic characteristics. Therefore, 2021 AHAR Report Part 1 is only able to provide national estimates on sheltered homelessness and findings on unsheltered homelessness only from the communities that conducted unsheltered counts.
The report found that the number of sheltered people in families with children declined considerably between 2020 and 2021, while the number of sheltered individuals remained relatively flat. Between 2020 and 2021, the number of veterans experiencing sheltered homelessness decreased by 10 percent. On a single night in 2021, 15,763 people under the age of 25 experienced sheltered homelessness on their own as "unaccompanied youth." The number of sheltered individuals with chronic patterns of homelessness increased by 20 percent between 2020 and 2021.
"The findings of the 2021 AHAR Part 1 report suggest that federal COVID-19 relief had positive impacts on sheltered homelessness," said HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. "Yet we know that homelessness in America remains an urgent crisis. As long as people in this nation continue to lack affordable, secure housing, our work to put Housing First is not done. By continuing to leverage American Rescue Plan resources and our federal House America initiative, the Administration will further accelerate progress toward our shared goal of ending the homelessness crisis."
"The 10% decline in sheltered homelessness among Veterans between January 2020 and January 2021 suggests that the measures put in place to protect our most vulnerable Veterans and keep them in stable housing during the pandemic and beyond have had encouraging impacts," said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. "VA remains committed to actively working with our federal, local and non-profit partners to sustain existing and implement new evidence-based programs and policies to permanently house or rapidly re-house Veterans who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness because every Veteran has earned and deserves a safe place to call home."
The pandemic also resulted in considerable changes to the practices of homeless service providers. To promote the safety of people staying in shelter programs, most emergency shelters reduced occupancy to respond to CDC recommendations on COVID-19 safety measures. In some cases, this reduced occupancy was reported through the Housing Inventory Count (HIC), but in other communities it was not. Estimates of the number of people experiencing sheltered homelessness at a point in time in 2021 should be viewed with caution, as the number could be artificially depressed compared with non-pandemic times, reflecting reduced occupancy in some communities or safety concerns regarding staying in shelters.
HUD releases the Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (AHAR) in two parts. Part 1 provides Point-in-Time (PIT) estimates, offering a snapshot of homelessness on a single night. The one-night counts are conducted during the last 10 days of January each year, with extensions approved on a case-by-case basis. The PIT counts also provide an estimate of the number of people experiencing homelessness within particular homeless populations such as individuals with chronic patterns of homelessness and veterans experiencing homelessness.
The Point-in-Time counts of homelessness and the housing inventory information are based on data from January 2021 and thus do not reflect the full impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the prevalence of homelessness or the health and economic status of people experiencing homelessness.
Key Findings of HUD's 2021 Annual Homeless Assessment Report Part 1:
- On a single night in 2021, more than 326,000 people were experiencing sheltered homelessness in the United States. Six in ten were individuals—that is, people in households with only adults or in households with only children. Four in ten were people in families with children.
- The number of people staying in sheltered locations decreased by eight percent between 2020 and 2021. While this continues a decline that began in 2015, the drop between 2020 and 2021 was steeper than those in recent years.
- The number of sheltered people in families with children declined considerably between 2020 and 2021, while the number of sheltered individuals remained relatively flat.
- Between 2020 and 2021, the reported inventory available for people experiencing homelessness remained relatively flat, but occupancy rates declined.
- The share of emergency shelter beds for people experiencing sheltered homelessness located in non-congregate settings increased by 134 percent.
- Between 2020 and 2021, the number of veterans experiencing sheltered homelessness decreased by 10 percent. This represents the largest one-year decline since 2015-2016.
- On a single night in 2021, 15,763 people under the age of 25 experienced sheltered homelessness on their own as "unaccompanied youth." This represents a decline of nine percent between 2020 and 2021. While decreases in sheltered homelessness among unaccompanied youth were experienced across nearly all demographic characteristics, a few groups did experience increases.
- The number of sheltered individuals with chronic patterns of homelessness increased by 20 percent between 2020 and 2021.
In January of 2021, 326,126 people were experiencing sheltered homelessness, staying in emergency shelters, safe havens, or transitional housing programs. While sheltered homelessness had been decreasing in recent years, the decline between January of 2020, before the onset of the pandemic in the United States, and January of 2021 was steeper than recent year to year declines. The number of people staying in sheltered locations declined by 8 percent (or 28,260 people). The sheltered population reported in 2021 was 19 percent lower than it was in 2010 and 17 percent lower than it was in 2007, when these data were first reported.
Sheltered Chronic Homelessness
The number of sheltered individuals with chronic patterns of homelessness increased by 20 percent between 2020 and 2021. This trend in the sheltered chronically homeless individual population runs counter to the decrease for all sheltered individuals. While the overall sheltered individual population has declined, the number of chronically homeless individuals staying in shelter programs has increased in recent years and continued to do so between 2020 and 2021.
Sheltered Family Homelessness
On a single night in 2021, 131,377 people experienced sheltered homelessness as part of a family with at least one adult and one child under the age of 18. The average family size was 3.2 people, and about 41,000 family households were experiencing sheltered homelessness. The overall number of people in families with children who were experiencing sheltered homelessness on a single night declined by 15 percent between 2020 and 2021 (or 23,531 fewer people). This was a much larger change than in the number of sheltered individuals, which dropped by only 2 percent. Some of the pandemic-related resources available through the CARES Act and other pandemic relief measures were more generous to families with children.
Sheltered Youth Homelessness
On a single night in 2021, 15,763 people under the age of 25 experienced sheltered homelessness on their own as "unaccompanied youth." This represents a decline of nine percent between 2020 and 2021. While decreases in sheltered homelessness among unaccompanied youth were experienced across nearly all demographic characteristics, a few groups did experience increases. The number of people who were transgender increased by 29 percent, and the number of sheltered unaccompanied youth who were gender non-conforming increased by 26 percent. Though the number was relatively small, sheltered unaccompanied youth who were Native American experienced the largest percentage increase, at 21 percent.
Sheltered Veteran Homelessness
Between 2020 and 2021, the number of veterans experiencing sheltered homelessness decreased by 10 percent. This represents the largest one-year decline since 2015 to 2016. In 2021, 19,750 veterans were experiencing sheltered homelessness, representing eight percent of all sheltered adults experiencing homelessness in the United States. Veterans experiencing sheltered homelessness accounted for 11 out of every 10,000 veterans in the country.
Sheltered Homelessness Among People of Color
More than 4 of every 10 people experiencing sheltered homelessness were Black of African American (45% or 147,521), and 44 percent (or 144,707 people) were White. The remaining 10 percent were people identifying multiple races (5%), Native American or Indigenous Peoples (2%), Asian (1%), or Pacific Islander (1%). Between 2020 and 2021, the number of Black or African American people staying in shelters decreased by 12 percent. People who were of more than one race decreased by 10 percent. While the number was relatively small, the number of people who were Pacific Islander increased by 10 percent (or 421 people).
In the sample of 138 communities that conducted full unsheltered counts in both 2020 and 2021, nearly half of people experiencing homelessness (46%) were individuals staying in sheltered locations, 37 percent were people in families with children staying in sheltered locations, 15 percent were unsheltered individuals, and three percent were unsheltered people in families with children. Across all 138 communities, the unsheltered population remained largely unchanged, decreasing by 78 people or less than one percent. The number of people counted in unsheltered locations increased in rural and other largely urban CoCs and decreased in major cities and suburbs. The change in the number of unsheltered individuals mirrored that of all unsheltered people. However, in each geographic category the number of unsheltered people in families increased.
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