Updated Monday, December 10, 2012 at 08:46 PM
WASHINGTON — The number of chronically homeless people and homeless veterans has dropped in recent years, but the Obama administration still faces challenges to completely eradicate homelessness by 2020.
Those findings and others, based on a single-day snapshot of data taken in January, were contained in an annual report on homelessness released Monday by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Homelessness overall has dropped 5.7 percent since 2007.
There were 633,782 homeless on the night in late January when more than 3,000 U.S. cities and counties took their annual homeless count. Nearly half were in California, New York, Florida, Texas and Georgia.
The data showed slight growth in rural and suburban homelessness — believed to be caused by the recession’s impact on families — but the problem remains concentrated in urban areas.
The largest improvement has come among veterans and the chronically homeless, populations that were the first targets of a White House initiative that aims to end chronic and veteran homelessness by 2015, and all homelessness by 2020.
The number of homeless veterans dropped 7.2 percent since 2011 and 17 percent since 2009. The number of chronically homeless has declined 6.8 percent since 2011 and 19.3 percent since 2007. But there are still 62,619 homeless veterans and 99,894 chronically homeless people.
People are chronically homeless if they have been homeless for a year or more, or if they are disabled and have experienced at least four instances of homelessness in the past three years.
Eric Shinseki, the secretary of Veterans Affairs, said his agency will devote $300 million in 2013 to a grant program that provides veterans with support services while they live in or transition to permanent housing.