On February 4, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the results of the 2021 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count, the annual effort to estimate the number of Americans, including Veterans, without permanent housing.
The results showed that on a single night in January 2021, there were 19,750 Veterans experiencing sheltered homelessness in the U.S. This reflects a 10% decrease in the number of Veterans experiencing sheltered homelessness from 2020. This also represents the largest one-year decline since 2015 to 2016.
Other notable insights include that Veterans experiencing sheltered homelessness represented only eight percent of all sheltered adults experiencing homelessness in the United States and accounted for only 11 out of every 10,000 Veterans in the country.
Homelessness advocates have eagerly awaited these results, which would show the effects of the pandemic on homelessness. In addition to changing the way homeless services are delivered, COVID-19 also impacted the ability of communities to do their counts in January 2021.
HUD’s 2021 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, which documents the results of the PIT Count, provides national estimates on sheltered homelessness and findings on unsheltered homelessness from the communities that conducted unsheltered counts. So, while the report is an important snapshot into the state of sheltered homelessness, it does not provide a complete picture of homelessness in America.
Sheltered vs unsheltered homelessness
Knowing how many Veterans experiencing sheltered homeless versus unsheltered homelessness has always been an important way HUD and VA evaluate the progress toward ending homelessness for all Veterans. But this year, the distinction is even more important.
Veterans who experience sheltered homelessness often live in places such as emergency shelters, transitional housing programs or other supportive settings. In contrast, Veterans who experience unsheltered homelessness live in places not meant for human habitation, such as cars, parks, sidewalks, abandoned buildings and literally on the street.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put even more pressure and risks on Veterans living on the street or other unsheltered settings because they are not able to shelter-in-place to avoid contracting or spreading the virus.
Read full 2021 PIT Count data, updates on Veteran homelessness posting