The number of homeless people living without shelter in Harris County and Fort Bend County dropped by more than 50 percent between 2011 and this year, according to the latest figures released yesterday by the nonprofit Coalition for the Homeless. The overall homeless population — which includes those housed in shelters — stands at 5,351, according to the organization’s latest count, which was conducted on January 30th. That’s down a similarly respectable 37 percent from the 2011 figure, and a 16 percent drop from the numbers found in 2013.
The report goes on to break down those numbers into subpopulations, as illustrated in this chart:
One out of every 910 people in Harris and Fort Bend Counties is homeless, according to the report. And nearly half of the unsheltered homeless population suffer from mental illness, substance abuse problems, or both.
Additional details in the organization’s report identify a few issues with the study’s methodology: First, the numbers come from a single count on a single evening, and for that reason “may not be measuring all persons experiencing homelessness.” In addition, the numbers follow the department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of homelessness, which does not include incarcerated persons. Adding in the number of “individuals in the Harris County Jail the night of the count who indicated that they were homeless before arrest (and therefore likely to be so after release),” the total number of homeless persons in the region rises to 6,876. However, the report also notes, under this expanded definition of homelessness, the total number is still down 38 percent from 2011.
Advocates for the homeless cited the improved economy, collaboration among local organizations providing services to the homeless, and increased federal focus and funding for their efforts as factors in the improvement, reports the Chronicle’s Jayme Fraser: “The number of people placed into permanent supportive housing, which has no limit on how long a person can stay and is connected with intensive social services, has jumped 81 percent over three years, according to the coalition,” she writes. “Neal Rackleff, leader of the city’s housing department, said the region is on track to build the last 1,000 units needed by the [federal] deadline [to end chronic and veteran homelessness by 2015].”
Fraser continues: “The housing-first philosophy contends people are more likely to stay housed if they have the guarantee of a home as long as it takes them to manage financial, physical and mental health challenges.
Advocates also cite a local government review that found it is at least three times cheaper for taxpayers to fund a unit of permanent supportive housing than pay for emergency room visits, jail time, and temporary shelter.”
- Houston Homeless Population Cut by Nearly 40 Percent Since 2011 [Coalition for the Homeless]
- Houston/Harris County/Fort Bend County Point-in-Time Enumeration 2014 Executive Summary (PDF) [Coalition for the Homeless]
- Homeless population continues to decline, advocates say [Houston Chronicle ($)]
Photo of City Hall: elnina