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The 1996 National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients is a landmark study that provides information about the providers of homeless assistance and the characteristics of homeless persons who use services. It functions as an important baseline and foundation for assessments of the nature and extent of homelessness.
The survey is a response to the fact that homelessness remains one of America's most complicated and important social issues. Chronic poverty, coupled with physical and other disabilities, have combined with rapid changes in society, the workplace, and local housing markets to make many people vulnerable to its effects. With the enactment of the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act of 1987, Congress recognized the need to supplement "mainstream" federally funded housing and human services programs with funding that was specifically targeted to assist homeless people. Over $11 billion in McKinney funds have been appropriated since then, and billions more have been provided through other federal, state, and local programs and benefits.

Those who provide assistance—the government agencies, the thousands of nonprofit organizations, and countless private individuals—have learned a great deal about effective ways to meet the needs of homeless people through improved supportive services, increased housing options and cooperative ventures among agencies providing assistance. Although substantial progress has been made in obtaining funding and learning about effective approaches, much more remains to be done. (Interagency Council on the Homeless)
The Urban Institute
Washington, D.C.
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A program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services