2013 Homeless Point-in-Time Report for Austin/Travis County
Homeless population shows continued reduction
AUSTIN – The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) announces a 5.5% drop in homelessness in the Austin/Travis County area based on the 2013 Point-in-Time (PIT) count held the night of January 25 into the morning of January 26, 2013. The preliminary homeless report shows 2,121 homeless individuals for 2013 compared to 2,244 for 2012. The number of unsheltered homeless individuals showed an even larger decrease of 12.0% with 765 reported for 2013 down from 869 in 2012. The annual PIT estimate attempts to determine the extent of homelessness on a single night within the last ten days of January. The count is held so the US Dept. of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) can estimate homelessness on a national level, help communities understand the changes in trends among homeless populations, and raise the public’s awareness of homelessness. Read HUD's 2012 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness, including community-level data
More than 300 volunteers (up from 200 last year) took to the streets to determine the overall count numbers and to conduct surveys to gather demographic information. Of persons who identified in 2013: 14% are veterans; 28% are victims of domestic violence; 20% are chronically homeless; 4% suffer from chronic substance abuse; and 18% from severe mental illness; and less than 1% reported having HIV or AIDS. The percentage of homeless veterans showed a reduction of 17.3%, from 353 to 292, which in large part is due to the success of the Veterans Administration’s VASH housing program, which provides housing vouchers and services to eligible veterans.
Services are still needed
The estimates from the 2013 PIT show that progress is being made, especially in housing. Since 2008 we have increased the total number of units available by 27%, and the number of homeless individuals has decreased by 39%. We also know that a ‘snapshot’ does not show the complete picture. ECHO publishes a report on weekly and calendar year-to-date numbers of unique individuals receiving services from one of the 22 providers contributing data to the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). These individuals are either at-risk of becoming or are homeless.
For 2012 ECHO reported that over 12,000 individuals had received services. The emergency shelters consistently serve between 2,650 and 2,750 men, women and children each week. These numbers are drastically different from the 2,121 total number of homeless counted during the PIT count.
We have an urgent need for more housing and shelter, especially for women and children. The Salvation Army’s Women and Children Shelter and the new Single Women ‘Safe Sleep’ Shelter are over capacity. Children account for nearly 20% of all homeless individuals. The Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR), which is presented to Congress, shows that for 2012 our Emergency Shelters were running at over 100% capacity. The report also shows that the number of family individuals increased by 10% and on an average night the number of total individuals in shelter or housing increased by 12%.
The Point-in-Time is planned by the local “Continuum of Care” and is a one-night count of the homeless population in Austin/Travis County. The count is considered a ‘snapshot’ on the sheltered and unsheltered homeless population. Volunteers, with trained team leaders, canvass Austin/Travis County to locate the unsheltered on the streets, or in camps, cars or other places not meant for human habitation.
The Obama Administration's strategic plan to end homelessness is called Opening Doors - a roadmap by 19 federal member agencies of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness along with local and state partners in the public and private sectors. The plan puts the country on a path to end veterans and chronic homelessness by 2015; and to ending homelessness among children, family, and youth by 2020. The Plan presents strategies building upon the lesson that mainstream housing, health, education, and human service programs must be fully engaged and coordinated to prevent and end homelessness.
The plan, and its success, hinges on widespread implementation of an approach to preventing and ending homelessness known as Housing First: a strategy whose fundamental premise is that homeless assistance programs must respond, first, to the most urgent need of a homeless household - permanent housing. Then, around this housing must be provided the supports the individual or family needs to address other challenges in their lives.