Every year, on a single night in January, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) aided by a large number of community groups called Continuums of Care ((CoC) conducts an assessment of the number of persons who are homeless in the U.S.  In 2011 that single-point-in-time (PIT) survey found 633,782 people without a permanent home, about the same number as was counted in 2010.  Data was reported for more than 3,000 cities and counties and found a very slight (-0.4 percent) reduction in overall homelessness and a seven percent drop in long term or chronic homelessness.  The incidence of homelessness among veterans also dropped by over 7 percent.

Secretary Shaun Donovan cited as hopeful that even during a historic housing and economic downturn, local communities are reporting significant declines in the number of homeless veterans and those experiencing long-term chronic homelessness. 

Donovan said, "We continue to see a stable level of homelessness across our country at a time of great stress for those at risk of losing their housing.  We must redouble our efforts to target our resources more effectively to help those at greatest risk.  As our nation's economic recovery takes hold, we will make certain that our homeless veterans and those living on our streets find stable housing so they can get on their path to recovery."

The PIT estimates offer a snapshot of homelessness both sheltered and unsheltered.  The counts of sheltered homeless are conducted annually and unsheltered people are tallied every two years.  PIT also provides an estimate of the number of homeless persons within subpopulations such as chronically homeless and veterans and counts of beds in emergency shelters, transitional housing, safe havens, and permanent supporting housing programs.  Data was collected by 427 CoCs covering virtually the entire country and 67 percent conducted both a sheltered and unsheltered county and 33 percent a sheltered count only.


Of the 633,782 persons identified as homeless that night, 394,379 (62 percent) were individuals while 239,403 (38 percent) were in family households.  Homelessness among individuals has declined by 1.4 percent since 2011 and by 6.8 percent since 2007.   Homelessness among persons in families has increased by 1.4 percent since 2011, but has declined by 3.7 percent since 2007.

There were 390,155 persons, almost two-thirds of the homeless, housed in an emergency shelters or transitional housing and about one third or 243,627 persons were living on the street.  Street homelessness ("the unsheltered homeless population) was unchanged since January 2011 yet declined 13.1 percent (or 36,860 people) since 2007.

There were 62,619 veterans identified during the survey, a decline of 4,876 persons or 7.2 percent since January 2011 and 12,990 people or 17.2 percent from January 2009. The number of veterans in emergency shelters or transitional housing has declined by 7,954 over the last two years and the number of unsheltered veterans, which dropped by 15.5 percent between 2009 and 2010 remained unchanged between 2010 and 2011. 

"This report continues a trend that clearly indicates we are on the right track in the fight to end homelessness among Veterans.  While this is encouraging news, we have more work to do and will not be satisfied until no Veteran has to sleep on the street," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "What success we have achieved is directly attributable to the strong leadership from the President and hard work by all of our federal, state, and community partners who are committed to ending Veteran homelessness."

A chronically homeless person is defined as one with a disability who has been continuously homeless for a year or more or has experienced four or more episodes of homelessness over three years.   Just short of 100,000 persons were identified as chronically homeless in January 2012, 15.8 percent of all homeless persons.  About two-thirds of the chronically homeless (67,247) were unsheltered on that single night while 32,647 were sheltered.   Persons experiencing long-term or chronic homelessness declined 6.8 percent (or 7,254) from last year and 19.3 percent (or 23,939 persons) since 2007 but this decline has been driven by a decline of 16.2 percent of chronically homeless in shelters.  Unsheltered homeless have declined only slightly.

Five states accounted for nearly half of the nation's homeless population in 2012: California (20.7 percent), New York 11.0 percent), Florida (8.7 percent), Texas (5.4 percent), and Georgia (3.2 percent).  Only two out of five homeless persons were counted in jurisdictions containing the 50 largest cities; the same number was located in smaller cities, suburbs and regional areas.  The remaining 16 percent were counted by statewide CoC jurisdictions and could not be localized further.

The survey found 701,184 beds were available in emergency shelters, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing programs.  229,206 beds (or 32.6 percent) were in emergency shelters, 197,192 beds (or 28.1 percent) were located in transitional housing programs and 274,786 beds (or 39.1 percent) were in permanent supportive housing programs.

Approximately 52 percent of beds for homeless people (emergency shelter and transitional housing) were used by people in families, and 48 percent were used by homeless individuals.  In contrast, permanent supportive housing beds were more likely to be used by individuals (60.5 percent) than persons in families (39.5 percent).  The total bed inventory was up by 6,359 beds or 0.9 percent since January 2011

The Obama Administration's announced a  strategic plan called Opening Doors in 2009 with the goal of ending veteran's and chronic homelessness by 2015 and ending homelessness among children, family, and youth by 2010.