The number of people experiencing homelessness in Arkansas dropped in 2016. That’s according to a new report released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The state's homeless population dropped 3.8 percent since last year and 10.8 percent since 2010, according to the report. HUD estimated that 2,463 people in the state are homeless in 2016.
The study, called the Annual Homeless Assessment Report or AHAR, documents homeless populations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and is released annually.
Ben Goodwin, the assistant director of Our House, says the data does generally confirm anecdotal knowledge of homelessness in Central Arkansas over the last few years.
“The great recession of 2008 to 2010 was definitely the high water mark for homelessness in Central Arkansas. And I think as the economy has picked up and it’s been easier for people to get jobs, it has helped. I think we’re also doing a better job of coordinating our efforts in the homelessness community,” Goodwin says.
Among HUD’s estimate of homeless in Arkansas, 1,838 were individuals, 625 were people in families with children, 201 were unaccompanied youth, 222 were veterans and 417 were chronically homeless.
Goodwin says while the HUD report gives an overall snapshot that confirms anecdotal reporting, it does not factor in people like those who may find temporary housing with family members during homeless stints.
“Many times they will be able to stay with friends and family for a while to avoid having to live on the street. And so, in the opinion of Our House, this [HUD] count undercounts the true homeless count in our communities, specifically undercounting families,” he says.
Goodwin also says recent anecdotal reports of homeless populations in Central Arkansas indicate there may be more people now living on the street. Several local nonprofits and volunteers will find out when they conduct a local area homeless count on January 24th.