Federal aid helped many cash-strapped Americans keep a roof over their heads during the prolonged economic slump, but the number of people living a step away from the streets has grown sharply, researchers reported Wednesday.
The estimated U.S. homeless population dipped about 1% between 2009 and 2011 despite the lingering effects of the 2007-2009 recession, the Washington-based Homelessness Research Institute concluded.
About $1.5 billion from the 2009 economic stimulus measure went toward rental assistance and programs steering recently evicted people toward new housing, "and it seems likely that that has worked," said Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
Nevertheless, the homeless population went up in 24 states during the past two years, the Washington-based researchers found. And the number of people who have had to move in with friends or relatives -- often a last stop before the street -- is up as well, according to Wednesday's report.
The Homelessness Research Institute, the educational arm of Roman's organization, put the number of Americans living on the streets or in shelters at just over 636,000 in 2011. That's down about 6,000 from the group's 2009 estimate. The figure is based on reports and street counts from state and local agencies that receive federal housing funds.
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