HUD’s recently released 2019-2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress applied new methods to distinguish demographics and trends among people who use emergency shelters, safe havens, and other traditional housing programs.
The report found that 2020 saw approximately 1.25 million people accessing shelter programs, which equates to a 14% reduction of people that accessed shelter programs from 2019 levels. Of those 1.25 million, 60% (570,000 households) were accessing shelter programs for the first time. The authors posit that health and safety concerns may have made families with children less likely to use shelters and that other responses to the public health emergency such as eviction moratoria and increased safety net resources likely contributed to the decline. The authors also note that this change could reflect reduced shelter capacity as well as unwillingness to enter shelters due to health concerns.
People who were experiencing homelessness while sheltered were still disproportionately Black, Indigenous, and people of color. While only 12% of American heads of households identify as Black, 21% of heads of impoverished households were Black, and 40% of those experiencing sheltered homelessness were heads of households that identify as Black.