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Count Confirms Trend Of Decline In Homelessness In Greater Houston

The Houston Coalition for the Homeless used a more thorough methodology this year.



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Drive through downtown Houston – for example, under the Pierce elevated – and you're likely to see your fair share of people camped out on the street.

But the number of homeless people in Greater Houston is on a steady decline. The Houston Coalition for the Homeless led the count on a given night in January. It includes Houston, Pasadena, Harris County and Fort Bend County.

"There were 3,626 total individuals, either in shelter or unsheltered, on that evening," Marilyn Brown, president and CEO of the nonprofit, said.

That's a 21 percent reduction since last year and a 57 percent decrease since 2011.

This year, they didn't just take a visual count of people that seemed homeless but conducted interviews to verify their status and determine needs.

Brown said 20 percent of those who at first glance looked homeless turned out not to be.

"Next year, doing the same methodology, will be a stronger trend," she said. "But we really feel like we were perhaps even over-counting when we were doing it just observationally."

She attributes the continuous decline to the collaboration of many different agencies that started with the Continuum of Care program by HUD, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It's known as The Way Home here.

One of those agencies is the city of Houston. Marc Eichenbaum, special assistant to the mayor for homeless initiatives, said the city is really committed to reducing homelessness.

"The city's housing and community development department really works hard on developing the housing for the homeless," he said. "They also provide funds for supportive service."

Eichenbaum said the health, park and police departments also play a big role.

The count may have come back with just over 3,600 homeless people in one night, but Brown said the number of those who took advantage of homeless services last year is about 42,000.

Brown considers them as being on the edge of homelessness and proof that her work is far from being done.


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