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Homeless Research Group Says National Homelessness Down Between 2005 and 2007

Contact: Jeremy Reynalds, Joy Junction, 505-400-7145, jeremyreynalds@comcast.net

MEDIA ADVISORY, Jan. 14 /Christian Newswire/ -- New Mexico Homeless Reportedly Down over 40 Percent Statewide and 65 Percent in Albuquerque; Shelter CEO Shocked - Offers Possible Explanation

A new report from a homelessness research group says homelessness is down nationally.

The report is from the Homelessness Research Institute of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. It shows a 10 percent decrease in homelessness in the nation, from 744,313 per night in January 2005 to 671,859 per night in January 2007.

This includes a 28 percent decrease in chronic (long term) homelessness and an 18 percent decrease in family homelessness. Although homelessness declined overall in the nation, the report says, the picture varied among the states, with 36 percent reporting increases in homelessness and the rest reporting decreases.

Shockingly, New Mexico statewide (along with Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota) was listed as experiencing the highest decreases in homelessness. New Mexico was reported as having 5,256 homeless people in 2005 and 3,015 in 2007, a reduction of 42.64%. Albuquerque showed up as having 3,649 homeless people in 2005 and 1,276 in 2007, a reduction of 65 %.

New Mexico-based Joy Junction Homeless Shelter Founder and CEO Dr. Jeremy Reynalds said in his experience, the opposite is true. He stated that Joy Junction has seen a tremendous increase in the last few years of the number of people needing its services - from 150 to about 300 people each night.

Reynalds added, "I'm shocked about this data. I doubt whether it reflects the experience of any Albuquerque-based homeless service provider."

According to a news release from the Institute, the 2005 and 2007 estimates are compilations of point-in-time counts collected by local Continuums of Care (CoCs) ---- the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defined jurisdictions that oversee homeless services and are required to count their homeless populations every other year on one night in January.

The news release said that "Despite limitations, the estimates act as a tool for assessing the progress the nation has made on reducing homelessness."

However, these figures appear to be gathered in the same way and from the same sources that were used to generate a mid-2008 report which had some government officials bragging that homelessness is declining.

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness Executive Director Philip Mangano said at the time, "The numbers ... show we are on track to meet the Administration's goal of ending chronic homelessness. (They) are the numbers we've been waiting to see for 30 years - a decrease in homelessness for our most vulnerable and disabled neighbors, living on our streets, languishing in our shelters, those experiencing chronic homelessness."

The numbers to which Mangano was referring are contained in a HUD report. They appeared to indicate that the nation's chronically homeless population fell from 155,623 in 2006 to 123,833 in 2007. And overall homeless numbers, taken from a one-day national count in January, were down 12% from 2005 to 2007, to just under 672,000 people.

Capitalizing on these statistics, a July 29 2008 statement released by the White House Press Office said, "At the beginning of his Administration, President Bush set a goal to end chronic homelessness in America. Today, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary (Steve) Preston reported that the Administration has continued to make progress on this goal."

Preston said, "We can all be encouraged that we're making progress in reducing chronic street homelessness in America and with more resources and better reporting, we can continue this trend . . ."

Reynalds said about the HUD statistics released in 2008, "While a rosy picture is painted by the government of the current homeless picture, not mentioned is that the authors stress the limitations of the report data, including possible low client coverage (when some of those participating only included a portion of their clients), and possible low bed coverage (occurring when not all homeless assistance providers participated)."

Reynalds said there are tremendous difficulties involved in getting an accurate count of homeless individuals living on the streets.

He added, "I would say that with a one night count, accuracy is practically impossible. For a better picture, there would need to be a number of street counts."

A July 30 2008 story in Time magazine further explained the apparently lower number of homeless.

Time said the new data is "the result of an ongoing effort to more narrowly define who is actually considered homeless. This is the third annual national HUD count, and in previous years, some cities had been counting families who were living two families to an apartment, for example, or those living in RV's, as homeless. This year, they weren't. This count, say the report's authors, is the most successful to date in tallying only those who were actually in shelters or on the streets -- the official HUD definition of a homeless person."

At the time, Michael Stoops, the acting executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, told Reynalds by e-mail, "We think this is a 'spin' on the part of the government. Our network tells us that homelessness/poverty is increasing. Yet, the government says that homelessness and chronic homelessness is down."

Time reported that HUD's Preston did advise caution, saying in a recent release that there is a "long way to go to find a more lasting solution for those struggling with homelessness every day."

Time said that where housing advocates and the government disagree is whether a family of four who lost their home to the bank, and is now living with relatives, should be considered homeless.

Time had an interesting answer about why such families were kept out of the count.

"It's partially about the power of positive thinking," the magazine reported. "The number crunchers leading the federal fight believe that as long as Americans continue to perceive homelessness as an implacable problem, they'll never muster the will to help. But if the government can show that the numbers are actually relatively small -- like the 125,000 chronic homeless they are now counting -- then the public might just be up for tackling the issue."