WASHINGTON — The number of homeless people in the U.S. has declined slightly since last year, even as communities face shrinking federal budgets and a shortage of affordable housing, according to a survey released Thursday by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Nearly 565,000 people were homeless at the time of the count, on a single night in the last week of January. That was down 2 percent, from 578,000 the previous year, the survey found.
More than 47,000 veterans were homeless, a drop of about 4 percent from last year. The government said the decrease was due in part to investments by Congress and a joint program between HUD and the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide rental subsidies and other services to veterans. Last week, the agencies announced an additional $12 million to expand the program.
HUD Secretary Julian Castro also noted in a conference call that the state of Virginia and more than a dozen cities including New Orleans; Houston; Las Vegas; Mobile, Alabama; and Troy, New York, have created programs to end homelessness among veterans in their communities.
The report shows the least progress was in the number of people who are chronically homeless, which declined 1 percent to 83,000. Castro cited resource constraints — including the affordable housing crisis across the nation and dwindling federal budgets.
Castro also said the government is pushing to collect more comprehensive data on homeless youth. The study says nearly a quarter, or almost 128,000, of all homeless people are under the age of 18 years old.
President Barack Obama in 2010 launched a new federal strategy to prevent and end homelessness. In the last five years, the total number of homeless people has dropped more than 11 percent, from 637,077.
Castro said the plan ensures that "every man, woman and child enjoys a safe and stable place to call home."
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