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Houston’s Unsheltered Homeless Population Rises For First Time Since 2011

Advocates say they are not surprised

Laminated maps used for surveying the area’s homeless population in 2016 lay on a table.

When advocates went out to count the members of Houston’s homeless population, they found 18 percent of the unsheltered population was homeless due to Hurricane Harvey.

The annual Houston Coalition for the Homeless count, held in January, shows the unsheltered population in Harris, Fort Bend, and Montgomery counties rising for the first time since 2011. The group found there were 1614 people unsheltered between January 23 and 25, up nearly 500 people from around the same time last year.

"We weren't particularly surprised to see the number up and quite frankly we're glad it wasn't higher than it was given the devastation of hurricane Harvey," said Marilyn Brown, chief executive with Coalition for the Homeless. Many people the group found who were made homeless by Harvey were also homeless for the first time, she said.

In total, volunteers with the Coalition found 4,143 people both in shelters and on the street.

Brown said the Coalition is looking towards how it can better locate shelters and beds closer to people and encampments in order to help people move into more permanent housing.

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