Last month HUD released the 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) Part 2. This is the second of a two-part report that provides estimates of the scale of sheltered and unsheltered homelessness in the U.S. The 2019 and 2020 Part 1 reports, which were published in January 2020 and March 2021, provide one-night estimates of sheltered and unsheltered homelessness at the state, local, and national levels. This report provides a national estimate of people who utilized shelter programs at some point during the year in both 2019 and 2020. The 2019 data was previously delayed due to the pandemic and is now included in this report alongside the data for 2020.
The COVID-19 public health emergency had a tremendous impact on the nation’s shelter programs – which is reflected in the data. In 2020, many shelters closed or reduced their capacity due to the emergency. Those in need of shelter may have also avoided seeking out and staying in facilities out of concern for their health and safety. These factors likely contributed to the 2020 estimates being lower than the estimates from 2019.
The data in this report shows that fewer people entered shelter programs during the pandemic, either coming into the shelter system for the first time or returning to the system after an exit. However, more people remained in shelters, which suggests they had difficulty finding housing during the pandemic. Furthermore, the people who utilized shelter programs in 2020 had more acute needs—compared to 2019. There were higher rates of people with disabilities and survivors of domestic violence using shelters that year.
Throughout 2020, 1,253,000 people occupied emergency shelters, transitional housing programs, or safe havens. The vast majority, 824,500 people, were households with only adults present. Some 417,000, around 35 percent of those counted, included families with children. People experiencing sheltered homelessness are disproportionately Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). This pattern has been observed in previous AHAR reports, and it holds true regardless of whether people are in families, adults on their own, veterans, unaccompanied youth, or people with chronic patterns of homelessness.
For the first time, HUD can also provide year-long estimates for unaccompanied youth and people with chronic patterns of homelessness. In 2020, approximately 93,000 unaccompanied youth used a shelter program, and 185,000 people who used shelter programs had chronic patterns of homelessness. This information is critical to helping HUD and communities better understand homelessness, create strategies to prevent it, and ultimately, to end it.