Despite a slight increase nationally, homelessness declined in Ohio according to the latest estimate by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Mike Foley has details.
According to HUD’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report, 10,095 Ohioans experienced homelessness on a single night in 2017, a decline of 3 percent compared with last year. Homelessness among families with children declined 1.5 percent, and the number of homeless veterans dropped 7.3 percent. The number of Ohioans experiencing long-term, chronic homelessness decreased .8 percent. But the state’s unsheltered homeless individuals in 2017 increased 13 percent from 2016 figures. The report uses single night counts conducted in late January. HUD officials say even the limited snapshots are critical in understanding the scope of homelessness and measuring progress. Community Shelter Board executive director Michelle Heritage explains the current trends in Columbus and Franklin County.
“We’re seeing less families in need of homeless services. That is great news. We measured that over the last five quarters, so we’re thrilled about it. A concern we have however, we are also seeing affordable housing units go away. We are seeing both families and men and women staying in shelter longer than they have before and less opportunity to get them rehoused and stabilized because we can’t find safe, decent affordable housing for people to be in. At the same time, we’re seeing more people working who are homeless.”
Heritage says along with affordable housing, there’s also a need for more living wage jobs. Another key goal involves preventing homelessness. Heritage says the shelter board worked with 350 families last year who were heading toward being homeless. She says only 3 percent of those families needed shelter services after that intervention. The shelter board also plans to compile a list of central Ohio’s chronically homeless individuals to identify them not just on one day, but every day of the year to make sure they use shelters and services. Nationally, homelessness increased by .7 percent to 553,742 people.