WASHINGTON — The number of homeless people in the U.S. declined for a third straight year, helped by sharp dropoffs in veteran and chronic homelessness, according to a government survey released Thursday.
More than 610,000 people were homeless at the time of the count, on a single night in the last week of January. That was down from 633,782, or a 4 percent drop from the previous year, according to the survey by the Housing and Urban Development Department. The study counted people in 3,000 cities and counties.
The number of homeless veterans stood at 57,849, down nearly 5,000 or 8 percent from the previous year. The number of chronically homeless people declined 7 percent to 92,593. The number of people in homeless families fell 7 percent to 222,197, according to the report.
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan attributed the drop in part to increased participation among veterans and others in a government voucher program that helps pay housing costs. He cautioned that proposed federal budget cuts to housing programs could undermine the progress in reducing homelessness.
Since 2010, the total number of homeless people has dropped 6 percent, from 649,917.
Nearly two-thirds of those experiencing homelessness were living in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs, while the remainder lived on the streets under bridges, in cars or in abandoned buildings, the survey found.
Five states — California, New York, Florida, Texas and Massachusetts — accounted for more than half of the homeless population. Roughly 20 states, including California and New York, posted increases in the past year despite the national decline in homelessness.
"We're making real and significant progress to reduce homelessness in this country, and now is not the time to retreat from doing what we know works," Donovan said.