IMPACT

U.S. Spending Historic Amount Fighting Homelessness, And It's Working: Report

04/03/2015 08:30 am ET | Updated Apr 03, 2015
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Uncle Sam is prioritizing the fight against homelessness like he never has before.

Federal funding for programs addressing homelessness is at its highest level ever, according to a report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness provided to The Huffington Post.

Through several initiatives by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education, targeted U.S. spending for the current fiscal year is $4.5 billion.

The unprecedented funding is "probably in part" to credit for a decline in net homelessness: 578,424 people were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2014 -- down 2.3 percent from the year before.

What's more, improvements were tracked within every major sub-population, such as the chronically homeless, families and unsheltered persons. Veteran homelessness, for example, has dropped 33 percent in the past five years.

The Obama administration has prioritized helping veterans and the chronically homeless get off the streets and into permanent housing. Although the president pushed back a deadline to end chronic homelessness to the end of 2017 due to budget constraints, HUD officials said last month the number of chronically homeless individuals has dipped 10 percent since 2010.

First lady Michelle Obama has also contributed to curbing homelessness. Since she launched the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness last June, 313 mayors and 101 county and city officials across the country have committed to getting every veteran into stable housing, the White House reported in January. New Orleans, Houston, Salt Lake City and Phoenix, Arizona, have all documented significant progress on the issue.

The new report by the alliance -- which collected local point-in-time counts of homeless populations submitted to HUD -- marks a decline overall and among every homeless subpopulation from when the alliance began publishing its findings in 2007.

Although data points to several areas of progress, the alliance notes a lack of housing options for impoverished Americans remains a dire issue.

"Many poor people are at risk of homelessness," the report found. "Ultimately, this is because it is hard for them to afford housing. Unemployment, housing cost burden and living doubled up are indications of this struggle to afford housing."

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