The drop of 0.4 percent to 633,782 continues a trend of improvement now lasting five years. In that time, the U.S. has reduced homelessness by 5.7 percent even as the poverty rate grew by 20 percent.
The decline shows that the country has learned something about how to address homelessness. The solution lies not in publicly sheltering the homeless for sustained periods but in ensuring that they quickly secure their own places to live.
This approach was first applied to the chronically homeless, who made up 16 percent of all cases in 2012.
New approaches also are being applied to the situationally homeless – families and individuals who’ve slipped into homelessness because of misfortune such as a job loss or a costly illness. Once assisted, people tended to stay housed. Numerous studies showed that only about 3 percent of households served were homeless again within 12 months. Plus, costs per household were much less.
Experience over the past five years demonstrates that homelessness is not an insurmountable challenge. With the right measures, significant progress is possible.