Right now, more than half a million Americans are homeless. Youth, veterans, aging populations, and individuals with disabilities are particularly at risk of being unable to secure affordable, stable housing. The National Conference of State Legislatures estimates that on any given night, more than 40,000 unaccompanied youth aged 13 – 25 are without housing. Many of these individuals rely on rental assistance, vouchers, emergency shelter, and public housing programs.
Thankfully, numerous public and private organizations provide various layers of support to homeless individuals and families. There are currently more than 11,000 organizations providing community housing and shelter to homeless individuals in the U.S., and that value has risen by 1% since 2017, according to IBISWorld industry trends.
But some experts believe that growth rate may not be enough, positing that America’s homelessness crisis is primed to get worse before it gets better. The incidence of chronic homelessness, for example, rose by 20% between 2020 and 2021.
So the key question is: How can communities expand homeless assistance programs to support a growing volume of individuals and families in need of affordable housing and supportive services? This comes down to funding.
Local governments may vote to increase general fund allocations to support social services and community-based efforts, and nonprofits steward donor relationships to rally philanthropic support, but the majority of homeless assistance funding comes from the Federal Government. Many states, cities, counties, territories, tribal governments, and nonprofits are eligible to apply for federal homeless assistance grants.