National Statistics on Homelessness
According to the 2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, 664,414 persons nationwide were homeless on a single night in January 2008. Nearly 60% of these persons were in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs, while a little over 40% were unsheltered on the “street” or in other places not meant for human habitation. These numbers have changed little since the 2007 estimate, decreasing by about 1 percent or 7,500 people. Of those counted, about three-fifths were homeless as individuals (62 percent), while two-fifths (38%) were part of a family.
Over time studies show that about 1.6 million persons used an emergency shelter or a transitional housing program during the 12-month period between October 1, 2007 and September 30, 2008, representing approximately 1,092,600 individuals (68 percent) and 516,700 persons in families (32 percent). When individual family members are converted to households, there were approximately 159,142 sheltered families, about 14 percent of all sheltered homeless households. The total number of sheltered homeless persons remained essentially unchanged between 2007 and 2008, increasing by only 5,200 people. However, the household composition of the sheltered homeless population shifted somewhat between 2007 and 2008. The number of homeless individuals was fairly stable, while homelessness among persons in families increased by about 43,000 or 9 percent. Accordingly, the share of family households among all sheltered households also increased, by nearly 3 percentage points.
Similarly, little has changed since 2007 with respect to estimates of the chronically homeless population. National 2008 Point in Time (PIT) estimates suggest that approximately 124,135 persons or 30% of all homeless individuals were deemed to be chronically homeless.
Metro-Denver and Boulder County Homeless Statistics
Due to methodological issues and changes in survey design, point-in-time estimates in Colorado are somewhat unreliable as an estimator of homeless trends over time. Nevertheless, these data provide us with the only available estimate of homelessness in the Denver-Metro area, Boulder County and its major municipalities.
The latest information on homelessness in the 7-county Denver metro area was collected using the PIT survey in January 2009. The following represent major data areas from the collection effort:
- A total of 11,061 persons were counted as homeless in the metro area on the January PIT data collection day. Of these, 5916 were single individuals and 5145 were person in families (including families with children and couples with children).
- There were an estimated 1,643 family households and single parent households comprised almost 75% of the family households surveyed.
- Children and teens under the age of 18 totaled 2,965 persons and comprised 26.8% of all persons counted.
- Approximately 497 of the 5916 single homeless individuals (just over 8%) were classified as chronically homeless and 76% of these were male.
Losing a job (34.7%) was the most frequent contributing factor reported by respondents as leading to their homeless status and an inability to pay rent or mortgage (31.2%) was the second. Single individuals were more likely than heads of family households to report substance abuse (35.4%) and mental illness (19.2%) as significant contributing factors to their homeless situation.
In Boulder County, approximately 1050 individuals and family members were counted as homeless in 2009. This represents approximately 10% of the homeless population in the metro area. Of these, 627 were individuals and 423 were part of a family. Approximately 48% were white and 39% were of Hispanic origin. For those reporting family status, approximately 108 children were identified in the age category of 0-5.
Disabling conditions were reported for homeless individuals and heads of households. Duplicated counts of these reported conditions show the following pattern:
- 31% reported a serious mental illness
- 28% reported a substance abuse problem
- 18% reported a co-occurring disorder
- 17% reported a physical disability
The reported contributing factors to homelessness are consistent with patterns observed at the metro-Denver level. The top five reported contributing factors were:
- Unable to pay rent or mortgage (323)
- Lost their job (272)
- Substance abuse problem (218)
- Breakup of a relationship (176)
- Mental illness (166)
Finally, the number of chronically homeless individuals in the county in 2009 was estimated to be between 96 and 108.
The cities of Boulder and Longmont have the largest share of Boulder County’s homeless populations. However, data from the PIT study is considered to be unreliable at this level and, therefore is not reported.