Report: Numbers of homeless people in NH on the rise

New Hampshire Union Leader

By Paul Feely

An advocacy group has released a report finding the number of homeless people across New Hampshire is on the rise.

The NH Coalition to End Homelessness (NHCEH) released its sixth State of Homelessness in New Hampshire Report this month. The report — compiled as an overview of statewide trends and indicators in homelessness from 2015 to 2017 — shows that after decreasing by 19 percent from 2015 to 2016, the overall number of people experiencing homelessness in the Granite State rose by 11 percent in 2017. The authors of the report blame the increase in part due to rising rents combined with low vacancy rates, “which place low income renters in tenuous positions to find affordable housing,” according to the report.

While the overall number of homeless people rose over the past year — from 1,316 in 2016 to 1,456 in 2017, the number is still lower than the reported number of homeless in 2015 of 1,632.

Of the 1,456 individuals reported as experiencing homelessness in 2017, approximately 53 percent were single adults and 47 percent were persons in families with children.

“The increase in the numbers of children and families experiencing homelessness is concerning,” said Cathy Kuhn, director of the NHCEH, in a statement. “Reversing this growth will require continued commitment and investment in the proven strategies that we know are successful in quickly rehousing those who become homeless.”

The report, availale online at www.nhceh.org/2017-report, also shows an increase in the number of homeless students along with the number of unaccompanied youth enrolled in school. During the 2016-2017 school year, there were a reported 365 unaccompanied homeless students, up from 251 in 2015-2016. Of those 365 students, 39 were living unsheltered while attending school, according to the report.

Following a period of decline, the number of homeless veterans remained relatively unchanged from 2016 to 2017, rising just three percent.

The report also looks at various housing and economic indicators that impact the number of people who become homeless in the state, including data from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to the report, between 2010 and 2014, the rate of people living at or below the poverty line in New Hampshire rose from 7.8 percent in 2010 to 8.7 percent in 2014. In 2015, the poverty rate saw its first decline in years, dropping to 8.2 percent.

The report can be viewed below. A one-page summary of the report can be viewed here

While the unemployment rate remains low in the state, holding steady at three percent in 2017, increases in median gross rents continued to outpace increases in median household renter incomes, diminishing the affordable housing market, the report states. Vacancy rates continue to decrease across New Hampshire, with the state average falling from 2.2 percent in 2015 to 1.4 percent in 2017, well below the typical five percent vacancy rate.

“Increasing rents compounded by extremely low vacancy rates make it almost impossible for those with the lowest incomes to secure stable housing for themselves and their families,” said Kuhn in a statement. “Service providers report an increasing number of families who find themselves without a roof over their heads and, due to a lack of housing and an insufficient number of emergency shelter units, are forced to reside in their cars, in tents or in other unsafe environments. As the weather gets colder and as the dangers associated with exposure to the elements increases, these scenarios can become life threatening.”

For more information about the NHCEH or the State of Homelessness in New Hampshire Report, visit www.nhceh.orgor call 641-9441.