A new report shows the total number of people who are homeless in Dallas and Collin counties hasn’t changed much since last year – but that certain types of homelessness are on the rise.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development considers any person who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate residence to be homeless – including anyone on the street, in emergency shelters, in transitional housing or in safe havens.
The Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance announced the results of its January homeless point-in-time count at its annual State of the Homeless Address on Thursday.
The group found that across Dallas and Collin counties, the overall number of homeless people fell slightly by just half a percent. However, there was an increase in unsheltered homelessness, which advocates say is more important to monitor.
“When you think of homelessness, you think of people on the street and people in emergency shelter. So when you look at that core, unsheltered and emergency sheltered, it was actually an 8.6 percent increase from the prior year,” said Cindy Crain, president of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance. “I think that is a better base line to be measuring against.”
The homeless alliance came to that figure by adding the unsheltered homeless, emergency sheltered homeless and safe haven homeless populations, and calculating how those numbers have changed since the previous point-in-time count.
There was a 47 percent increase in just the unsheltered homeless population since 2016 – from 739 people to 1,087.
Homelessness is still largely concentrated in Dallas, but the report found that the biggest percentage increase in homelessness actually happened in Collin County, especially Frisco and Wylie. Though the numbers in Collin County are comparatively lower, its homeless population doubled to over 108 people.
Crain, who’s a member of the KERA Community Advisory Board, said the homeless alliance will push for more policy changes that will ensure the neediest get help first.
“I want to see a dramatic decrease in homelessness next year. I would love to see a 20 percent decrease in unsheltered homeless a year from now, but that’s going to take street outreach, more engagement, better data – and we need to free up the beds of emergency shelters and improve the number of permanent supportive housing beds we have,” Crain said.
Following several homeless camp closures over the past year, advocates have pushed the City of Dallas and Dallas County to make fighting homelessness a financial priority. They’ve also called for a “housing-first policy,” which prioritizes finding permanent housing before addressing health and employment needs. Homeless advocates have touted “housing-first” as the most effective means of tackling homelessness.
The report also found that the number of homeless veterans have risen, and that people of color, especially African Americans, continue to make up the majority of the homeless population in Dallas and Collin counties.