Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
Regional progress has been uneven across the country.
A new 3D map created by the Metric Maps blog helps visualize how homelessness has changed from 2009 to 2013 for the different regions in the U.S. The map, based on data from Department of Housing and Urban Development, shows that the number of homeless per thousand individuals has decreased in every part of America except the Northeast, where it’s gone up during this period.
Several policies targeting the problem have helped bring the overall number of homeless down in the last decade or so. The Bush administration’s Housing First policy has been particularly effective. President Obama’s 2009 Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program helped to counteract the potential effects of the Great Recession, Stephen Laurie writes in The Atlantic, and accelerated the drop in numbers. In 2010, Obama reaffirmed his vow to end homelessness.
But it’s not great news across the board. States like New York and Massachusetts, which contained the second and fifth highest shares of homeless in the country in 2013, also saw notable increases from the year before. California contained the highest share of homeless in the country, at 22 percent. In prohibitively expensive places like the Silicon Valley, more and more people are at risk for losing their homes. So the devil is in the details.
The map’s creator (who asked to remain anonymous) is also concerned about what data don’t show. For instance, HUD measures homelessness by counting the number of people who approach service providers for help. But the mapmaker suspects this measure may understate the actual number of people who actually live without a stable roof over their head.
“I think in summary, if I could say anything it would be, ‘don't celebrate,’” the mapmaker says via the MetricMaps Twitter handle.