Ending Homelessness Today — Point in Time Counts
Friday News Roundup: 38 percent drop in homelessness in Los Angeles, California
October 30, 2009
Without question, the news of the day is the reported 38 percent drop in Los Angeles, CA.
In a year when everything seemed to present endless challenges for the homeless and homeless advocacy community – rising unemployment, stifled state budgets, increasing homeless counts, reduction of public services, and the rest – it seemed incredible that the city with the largest homeless population in the country saw such a pronounced decrease in their numbers. The Los Angeles Continuum of Care (CoC) is a solid ten percent of the entire homeless population in the country – so any significant movement in their number would represent a notable change in the nation’s homeless population.
All to say – we definitely noticed.
And the inevitable question that rises from such a report is this: how?
Alliance staff has ruminated about the data for the last couple days. Together, we discussed the drop in the sheltered count (down by 19 percent), rental unit vacancy rates for the last five years (up by 3 percent), the unemployment rate (up by 5 percent), the Consumer Price Index (down by 4 percent), and – of course – methodology. We compared Los Angeles to New York and the nation, comparing numbers and rates and population, noting the general difficulties in counting homelessness people – especially the unsheltered (67 percent of the homeless population in LA is unsheltered.)
Of course, all these variables could play a role in determining how and why the count went down as significantly as it did. The rate of rental unit vacancies, the rate of turnover in a homeless shelter, the way the CoC decided to define and count the homeless population all affect the number.
As I’m considering this reality, I’m also reminded that this number – although telling and significant and interesting – is only one piece of information. It’s one number derived from one count on one night in one continuum of care and, by itself, certainly not enough to paint a picture of the depth and breadth of the homeless problem, even just in Los Angeles.
Because homelessness is a complex issue, one that must be contextualized with all those other elements in order to full understand and – hopefully – solve.
That being said, our heartiest congratulations and thanks to Los Angeles for their report and their leadership in this field. Many new programs in the area are being funded by the City and County of Los Angeles, and the County launched a $100 million Homeless Prevention Initiative. The CoC hosts a Permanent Supportive Housing Program, expanded Section 8 voucher programs, and has long worked to ensuring that homeless families and individuals are not only housed but also equipped with the skills and tools to pursue permanent independence. Contextualized or not, we know that ending homelessness in Los Angeles is no easy task, and commend the CoC and their partner organizations hard at work developing innovative solutions and new ideas.
For more information about the Los Angeles count, please check out the >full report (disclaimer: it's a PDF). ... Read More »
Data + Research: Video Fact Sheet
October 06, 2009
Apologies for the hiatus over the last week.
But today, we make it up to you by launching our very first video fact sheet.
A lot of times, we get asked this question: How many homeless people are there?
And while that may seem like a simple question to answer, it’s actually more complicated than it seems. It’s not easy to count homeless people, so there are a lot of estimates. It depends on how you define “homelessness”. It depends on the groups you’re interested in – most people think of single adult men when they picture homelessness, but there are also families and children and veterans.
There’s also different methodology – the Department of Housing and Urban Development requires that all communities count homeless persons in their area every other year, but people count in different ways, so the number should account for that.
And we get variations of the question, too. How many people are homeless in a specific community? How many people who are homeless have a serious disorder? How many people are disabled? How many are youth? How many qualify for federal assistance – and of those, who’s accessing federal assistance?
So it’s actually a pretty complicated answer – and sometimes it can be hard to understand.
But luckily for you, the director of the Homelessness Research Institute – M William Sermons – put together this great video fact sheet explaining the numbers in an easy, understandable way... Read More »
HMIS Data in Minnesota
September 28, 2009
Today, we have a great guest post from our friends in Minnesota. It discusses data, and the importance of that data in approaching homelessness effectively and responsibly. As a member of our own Homelessness Research Institute at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the importance of good, solid data is something I’ve learned very, very well. Hope you get the message too.
Between October 1, 2007 and September 30, 2008, nearly 13,000 people stayed in the emergency shelter and transitional housing programs that participate in Minnesota’s Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), according to a recent report from Wilder Research. HMIS participating organizations have about 3,400 beds per night designated for people experiencing homelessness, about 57 percent of the state’s total capacity.
The report, Homeless Service Use in Minnesota: Emergency shelter and transitional housing, federal fiscal year 2008 provides numbers and characteristics of people who reside in HMIS-participating emergency and transition housing. It uses aggregated data submitted annually to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for its Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress.
A companion report presents detailed tables for each of Minnesota’s 13 HUD-related ‘Continuum of Care’(CoC) regions. (As we’ve discussed on this blog before, a CoC is the administrative unit in charge homeless programs.)
Minnesota has among the highest AHAR participation rates in the county. In addition to strengthening HUD’s report and providing useful information at the local level, high AHAR participation helps secure funding for homeless programs throug... Read More »
Troubles in Colorado
September 18, 2009
So Colorado is counting their homeless population, and the outlook doesn’t really look so great for the state.
According to the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, there are about 11,061 homeless people in the metro Denver region. That number is about 4 percent higher than the last official count in 2007, but homeless advocates think that the survey results are already out of date since their January 2009 count. John Parvensky, director of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, suggests that the real number could be up to 20 percent higher than the 2007 count.
The Alliance had long anticipated that the number of people experiencing homelessness would rise in these economic times, especially if there were no national or other concerted actions to try to remedy the effects of the recession on the very poor and the homeless (who, as we know, are often the hardest hit by economy tumult). Luckily since then, the President has since then created the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program (HPRP) as a part of the stimulus and we are, in fact, seeing evidence of rising homelessness and more people in need of basic services.
Here are a couple of highlights about the news from Colorado.
The Denver Post reports that almost approximately 45 percent of those recently counted were newly homeless.
34.7 percent of those counted attribute their homelessness primarily to job loss; 31.2 percent counted attribute their homelessness to the inability to pay for housing.
The Denver count also suggest t... Read More »
Data + Research: the Annual Homeless Assessment Report
July 09, 2009
Today, we’ve got some big news. It’s really big. It’s huge. It is [cue music] - the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)!!
...It’s really much more exciting than it sounds.
Basically, the AHAR is a comprehensive review of homelessness counts and trends in 2008. But before we delve into the magical world of data and statistics, there’s something you should know about this year’s report [cue suspense music]:
This year, there were TWO kinds of data collected: point-in-time counts and year-long data. Point-in-time counts are pretty much raw numbers. They tell us how many homeless people and what kind. Year-long data give us a little more detail about the demographics of these counts. Year-long data is also a bit newer than the point-in-time counts. This is the second year in a row that HUD collected year-long data, and we’re really pretty excited about the increase in data availability and analysis. (Yes, because we’re nerds.)
So without further ado…
This year’s AHAR shows that, overall, homelessness is flat compared to last year. Numbers vary slightly between the point-in-time count and the year-long data, but the Alliance concludes that the changes, if any, are marginal.
What’s much more interesting than the total number of homeless people is the information about specific types of homelessness – most significantly, chronic homelessness and family homelessness.
AHAR shows that chronic homelessness is... Read More »