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Despite Overall Decline, Count Reveals Uptick Of Homeless Population Downtown

Martin do Nascimento
The area around the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless downtown saw an uptick in the population of Austinites experiencing homelessness, according to a survey.

Results of a survey show a drop in the population of Austinites experiencing homelessness.

The annual tally, released yesterday by Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO), counted 2,036 people during the January survey.

Overall, the number of people experiencing homelessness was down by about 100 people.

“Certainly the direction we want to go is downward,” said ECHO Executive Director Ann Howard at an event announcing the results.

The count found around two-fifths of those counted were sleeping on the streets, about two-fifths were in shelters and the rest were in transitional housing.

While the drop is only about 5 percent of Austin's homeless population, Howard said, there is more good news buried in the data.

“The number of folks who are experiencing chronic homelessness dropped by 28 percent from last year,” she said. “And that is significant, and that does reflect this community working so hard.”

While the overall number was down, that drop wasn’t reflected in downtown Austin. The urban core has the highest number of homeless people and saw an increase over the past year. Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo’s District 9 represents much of the area that’s seen the uptick.

“We are moving in the right direction, but we still have tremendous need,” Tovo said yesterday. “I know that as a community we can come together and make sure that no Austinite has to call a street or a park their home.”

Tovo called on the city and private donors to provide resources for housing, like the city was able to do last year in finding homes for veterans as part of a federal grant program. Howard said that and other success stories can be attributed to the collaborative efforts of local agencies.

“We started coordinated assessment at the end of 2014. So, I think we’re starting to see the benefits of the community working together, acting as one, using a shared data set and prioritizing the most vulnerable, people experiencing chronic homelessness,” she said.

Howard said the next step is increasing the city's ability to help people in need by opening up slots for services and housing for those who are eligible.

Kate Groetzinger is a part-time reporter at KUT. She comes to us from Quartz, a digital media publication based in New York City, where she served as an Atlantic Media fellow. Prior to working at Quartz, Kate graduated from Brown University with a bachelor's degree in English. While at Brown, Kate served as an intern at Texas Monthly. Her work has been published online by Texas Monthly, CultureMap Austin, The Atlantic, Quartz, The Gotham Gazette and Paste Magazine, and in print by Rhode Island Monthly. She is happy to be back in her home state reporting on news for her fellow Texans.
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