WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. homelessness fell 1 percent nationwide from 2009 to 2011 despite the sluggish economy but the figure threatens to rise as the federal government cuts spending, according to a study released on Wednesday.
The number of homeless people in the United States fell to 636,017 last year from 643,067 in 2009, the National Alliance to End Homelessness said in its report.
The decline was likely due to the $1.5 billion in federal spending aimed at preventing homelessness, said the Alliance, which groups public, private and non-profit organizations.
Despite the drop, the effects of the economy on homelessness are increasing "and are expected to continue to do so over the next few years," the Alliance said.
Federal assistance has run out in many communities. Debt and deficit reduction efforts have started to shrink aid, it said.
The biggest decrease in homelessness was among veterans, with the number falling 11 percent to 67,495 in 2011 from 75,609 in 2009, the Alliance said.
Although the homeless population fell nationally, it rose in 24 states and the District of Columbia.
The number of poor households that spent more than half of incomes on rent rose 6 percent to 6.2 million, the report said.
(Reporting By Ian Simpson; Editing by Daniel Trotta)