Jan 5, 2024 - News

Arkansas' homelessness rate declines as nation's increases

Estimated homelessness rate, January 2023
Data: HUD; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

Arkansas had the tenth-lowest homelessness rate in the country in 2023, per a recent federal report.

Driving the news: The state had 8.6 people experiencing homelessness per 10,000 people in 2023, down from 9 per 10,000 people in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Alice Feng report.

Details: The annual report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) attempts to estimate the number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night — in this case, in late January 2023 — to offer a snapshot useful to policymakers, advocates, researchers and others.

  • Yes, but: Some advocates believe point-in-time counts can be misleading and may drastically underestimate the true number of individuals experiencing homelessness, as Axios Portland has reported.

The big picture: U.S. homelessness reached a record high in 2023, Axios' April Rubin reports, with about 653,100 people lacking adequate shelter.

  • Homelessness increased by about 12% nationwide from 2022 to 2023, per HUD's report.
  • The 2023 figure "is the highest number of people reported as experiencing homelessness on a single night since reporting began in 2007," per HUD.
  • Nationally, 20 in 10,000 people were experiencing homelessness in 2023.

The intrigue: While Arkansas' homelessness rate is among the lowest in the country, the percentage of people who are unsheltered — as in, living outdoors — is sixth highest at 51%. Of families with children experiencing homelessness, 28% were unsheltered — third most in the nation.

Between the lines: Black and Indigenous people were overrepresented among those experiencing homelessness nationwide, as has been the case in previous years.

  • Black people made up just 13% of the U.S. population in 2023, but 37% of all people without homes and 50% in families with children.

Zoom in: Families with children saw a 16% increase in homelessness across the nation.

  • This group made up about 28% of the homeless population, or roughly 186,100 people.
  • Unaccompanied youths made up 22% of all people under age 25 who were facing homelessness.

Of note: As the report points out, many pandemic-era social safety net programs — like income protections and eviction moratoriums — expired during 2023.

  • Shelters, meanwhile, largely went back to full capacity after capping admittance during the pandemic.

Both factors complicate comparisons of 2023's numbers with those from pandemic years, the report warns — another example of the pandemic muddying data collection and analysis efforts.


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