GOVERNMENT Greater Houston-area homeless population cites COVID19 as root cause
BY HANNAH ZEDAKER
Ana Rausch, vice president of programs for Coalition for the Homeless, said the pandemic played a signicant role in this year’s count. In addition to some homeless individuals being reluctant to stay in a shelter for fear of contracting COVID-19, Rausch said bed availability has also been cut signicantly to allow for social distancing in shelters. “So the lower sheltered numbers aren’t necessarily a positive development; if people are in need of services, we want them to have access to them,” said Mike Nichols, president and CEO for the coalition. Additionally, the recent launch of the Community COVID Housing Program also aected this year’s homeless count. The $65 million initiative by Harris County, the city of Houston and Coalition for the Homeless will provide permanent housing to 5,000 otherwise-homeless individuals over the next two years.
The 2021 Homeless Count & Survey results showed 3,055 individuals across Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties were experiencing homelessness on Jan. 19, the night of record for this year’s count. MAKING THE COUNT
One in seven unsheltered individuals in the Greater Houston area attribute their homelessness to job loss or eviction as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to the results of the 2021 Homeless Count & Survey, which were released March 24. Of those who identied COVID-19 as a root cause of their homelessness, 45% said this was their rst time experiencing homelessness. Coalition for the Homeless and The Way Home conducted its annual point-in-time homeless count Jan. 19-29 to identify sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness across Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties. Results showed 3,055 individuals were homeless in the tricounty area the night of Jan. 19—the night of record for this year’s count. Though not directly comparable, this is a 23% decrease from the 3,974 homeless individuals counted in 2020.
Sheltered: 1,545 Unsheltered: 1,510
15% Experienced domestic violence 28% Have a substance use disorder 38% Have serious mental illness Experiencing chronic homelessness 18%
COUNT BY COUNTY
Harris County: 2,893 Montgomery County: 102 Fort Bend County: 60
COURTESY THE CKP GROUP
SOURCES: COALITION FOR THE HOMELESS, THE WAY HOMECOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
The plan was announced last summer and launched in October. According to Rausch, as of Jan. 19 nearly 800 individuals had been permanently housed through the CCHP; as of March 24, that number had doubled to 1,600. Overall, Rausch the two nonprot
organizations have housed more than 21,000 people across the tricounty area since 2012. These eorts combined with the ongoing eviction moratorium have likely contributed to the Greater Houston area’s overall decrease in homelessness year over year, she said.
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