Homelessness in Massachusetts Declines 8 Percent

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Ben Carson

BOSTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released its 2019 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.

The report certified last month by HUD Secretary Ben Carson, found that  in Massachusetts, 18,471 persons experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2019, a decrease of 8 percent from 2018 (see below key findings for Massachusetts). Nationally, 567,715 persons experienced homelessness on a single night in 2019, an increase of 14,885 people since 2018. Meanwhile, homelessness among veterans and families with children continued to fall, declining 2.1 percent and 4.8 percent, respectively, in 2019.

“The Trump Administration is committed to working with local communities to find effective ways to end homelessness,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “HUD will continue these efforts to help end the suffering of our most vulnerable neighbors in the most compassionate way possible.”

David Tille, HUD New England Regional Administrator added, “We are proud of the work being done by our Massachusetts partners to reduce and eliminate homelessness, together we will continue this effort until every person has a safe place to call home.”

HUD’s national estimate is based upon data reported by approximately 3,000 cities and counties across the nation. Every year on a single night in January, planning agencies called “Continuums of Care,” (COC) along with tens of thousands of volunteers, seek to identify the number of individuals and families living in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs, and in unsheltered settings. These one-night ‘snapshot’ counts, as well as full-year counts and data from other sources (U.S. Housing Survey, Department of Education), are crucial in understanding the scope of homelessness and measuring progress toward reducing it.

Key Findings

On a single night in January 2019, state and local planning agencies in Massachusetts reported:

  • 18,471 people experienced homelessness, representing a 8 percent decrease from 2018.
  • Most homeless persons (17,642) were located in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs while 829 persons were unsheltered.
  • The number of families with children experiencing homelessness decreased 7.8 percent from 2018.
  • Veteran homelessness decreased 7 percent (or 68 persons) from 2018. Since 2010, however, veteran homelessness decreased by 42.5 percent. On a single night in January 2019, 917 veterans were experiencing homelessness.
  • Chronic or long-term homelessness among individuals increased by 1.3 percent (19 persons) over 2018 and decreased by 31 percent (or 615 persons) since 2010.

Nationally the numbers show:

Veteran Homelessness

Homelessness among Veterans is half of what was reported in 2010.  Last year alone, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness declined by 2.1 percent. These declines are the result of intense planning and targeted interventions, including the close collaboration between HUD and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Both agencies jointly administer the HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program, which combines permanent HUD rental assistance with case management and clinical services provided by the VA. This year, more than 4,400 veterans, many experiencing chronic forms of homelessness, will find permanent housing and critically needed support services through the HUD-VASH program. An additional 50,000 veterans found permanent housing and supportive services through VA’s continuum of homeless programs.

Family Homelessness

Local communities continue to report declines in homelessness among families with children in the U.S.  In January of 2019, there were 53,692 family households with children experiencing homelessness, a decline of five percent between 2018 and 2019, and 32 percent between 2007 and 2019.  Following HUD’s guidance and data-driven evidence and best practices, local planners are increasingly relying upon interventions to move families into permanent housing more quickly and at lower cost.  Communities are using more robust coordinated entry efforts, which have proven to be an effective response in helping families experiencing temporary crises as well as those enduring the most chronic forms of homelessness.

Chronic Homelessness

Long-term or chronic homelessness among individuals with disabilities grew 8.5 percent since 2018, while falling 9.4 percent below the levels reported in 2010. This longer trend is due in large measure to more permanent supportive housing opportunities available for people with disabling health conditions who otherwise continually cycle through local shelters or the streets.