Jan 11, 2024 - News

Pennsylvania homeless rate declines amid nationwide increase

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

Pennsylvania is among nine states with big declines in the number of people experiencing homelessness over the last three years, per a new federal report.

Driving the news: The state's homelessness rate dropped to 9.7 per 10,000 people overall in 2023, down from 10.3 per 10,000 people in 2019.

Why it matters: While the numbers show drastic improvement, advocates say more people, especially in Philadelphia, are experiencing homelessness for the first time as the nation grapples with an escalating housing crisis.

By the numbers: Nearly a quarter fewer Pennsylvanians experienced homelessness last year compared to 2007, per the report.

  • 86% of the more than 12,500 residents are experiencing what's considered "sheltered homelessness" — meaning they're living in a shelter, transitional housing or receiving assistance through a safe-haven program.

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, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Alice Feng report.

Yes, but: Some advocates believe point-in-time counts can be misleading and may drastically underestimate the true number of houseless individuals, 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 experiencing homelessness.

  • The 2023 figure "is the highest number of people reported as experiencing homelessness on a single night since reporting began in 2007," per HUD.

Zoom in: Homelessness in Philadelphia rose for the second straight year, up 5.2% in 2023 compared to the previous year, with a total of 4,725 people, per a recent survey.

  • 70% of Philadelphia's unhoused population was experiencing homelessness for the first time, per the city's Office of Homeless Services.
  • Homelessness remains below pre-pandemic levels, falling nearly 18% from 2019.

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 unhoused people and 50% of unhoused people in families with children.

Of note: As the report points out, many pandemic-era social safety net programs — such as income protection and eviction moratoriums — expired throughout the year.

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