The face of the average homeless person in the Houston region has changed. For years social service providers believed the typical homeless person was a young child or single mother — but the majority of people on the streets are the ones we see under bridges or on street corners.
This year for the first time in ten years, a comprehensive survey and enumeration study was done for the Houston/Harris County homeless population. Councilmember Gordon Quan says the city’s services were using data that was ten years old and trying to attack problems without the benefit of new information.
Quan says the homeless services are working for single mothers and children and now it’s time to target adult men. This group presents more challenges because many of them are unable to adequately care for themselves or live without supervision and long-term mental and physical care. Quan says part of the problem is inadequate federal funding.
To compound the problems facing homeless organizations, this year an additional strain on budgets and resources came to town when more than 150,000 hurricane evacuees moved into the area. Anthony Love is the President and CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless. He says the impact to the organizations is just beginning to be felt.
And Love says that’s just the beginning. People who are currently relying on FEMA assistance for rent money may not get the check in time and apartment owners could be forced to evict.
Right now about 60 non-profits receive $18 million a year in federal funding to address chronic homelessness. Love says to truly battle homelessness, that amount needs to more than triple, to $67 million a year.