WHO EXPERIENCES HOMELESSNESS IN AUSTIN & TRAVIS COUNTY?
- Persons living on the streets are often the most visible face of homelessness in our community. Others are less visible living in camps, cars or abandoned buildings. This unsheltered group make up 70% of all the homeless population while the rest stay in shelters.
- The largest subpopulations experiencing homelessness in Austin are:
- individuals (80%),
- males (60%),
- African Americans (42%)
- and 45-65 year olds (40%)
- Other impacted groups include families with children, survivors of domestic violence, Veterans & unaccompanied youth.
- Our homeless population experiences high rates of mental and physical health complications exacerbated by living on the streets and in shelters. Approximately 45% report having a current mental health problem, while over 38% report receiving treatment for substance use addictions in the past but returning to drinking or using drugs.
HOMELESSNESS IN AUSTIN & TRAVIS COUNTY BY THE NUMBERS
- Our last Point-in-Time (PIT) count, the national standard for collecting census data on local homeless populations, counted 2,138 persons experiencing homelessness on January 22, 2016, a 17% increase from the previous year.
- Similarly, the number of persons who experienced homelessness and sought homeless services increased almost 14%, from 6,104 people in 2014 to 7,054 people in 2015.
HOMELESSNESS ON THE RISE, WHY?
Local data shows our homeless population is on the rise. Other cities across the U.S. – ranging from Dallas, to Seattle, to NYC – have also seen a spike. Why is homelessness on the rise despite increased efforts to house the homeless? We believe the following factors contribute to this increase.
Regional Growth & Affordability Crisis.
Austin is experiencing rapid population growth leading to rising housing costs and an unprecedented demand for rental units, including Austin’s limited affordable housing. This creates more housing competition for those experiencing homelessness who may already have additional barriers such as criminal records, a history of substance use, poor employment, poor credit history, and low or no income.
Despite Austin’s rising housing costs, wages for low-income workers remain stagnant, making it more likely that low-income households with the weakest safety nets who are already struggling to balance life’s demands will fall into homelessness. For many, all it takes is an unforeseen financial crisis – be it a medical emergency or a car accident – coupled with a weak social support system, to push them over the edge from housing into homelessness.
Improved Outreach Efforts.
As a community, we have improved our street outreach and engagement efforts allowing us to count and work with people that we might have otherwise overlooked previously. It is always our goal to find people experiencing homelessness and connect them to helpful resources.
- As of March 2016, at least 2,800 households (3,700 people) were literally homeless in the Austin region and in need of 2,800 affordable and low-barrier housing units. This is easily an undercount, considering not everyone who is literally homeless engages with the homeless services system.
- The urgent need for housing is also coupled with many interconnected needs including living wage jobs and appropriate access to health care.