On December 15, 2023, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released its 2023 Annual Homeless Assessment Report Part I (AHAR). The report shows a 12% increase in the overall number of people in homeless shelters, or people who were in a visibly unsheltered situation, on a single night in January, as compared with the previous year’s HUD data.
Among all populations, the greatest increases were:
- Families with children – a 16% increase over the previous year
- Unaccompanied youth – a 15% increase over the previous year
These increases are all the more concerning because HUD data represent a very small fraction of the number of children, youth, and families who experience homelessness. The takeaway from the HUD data is clear: without urgent action now to remove barriers to existing resources, and to prioritize children, youth, and families for new resources, homelessness will continue to skyrocket for all populations.
When reviewing the new HUD report and media coverage, it’s important to keep three key facts below in mind:
1. HUD data exclude most children, youth, and families who experience homelessness, including many of the most vulnerable.
2. Despite HUD claims, family homelessness has been on the rise for years.
3. HUD claims that the dramatic increase in homelessness in 2023 is due in part to the winding down of pandemic-era relief measures. Many families with children experiencing homelessness were either not eligible for, or not prioritized for, housing-related pandemic aid. Families with children and unaccompanied youth continue to be excluded from or face barriers to available HUD housing and homelessness assistance.
The bottom line is that if urgent action is not taken now to amend existing programs and policies to remove barriers, and to prioritize children, youth, and families for new resources, homelessness will continue to skyrocket for all populations. There is a strong correlation between childhood homelessness and adult homelessness. Thus, ignoring children and youth now is a recipe for continued adult homelessness far into the future.