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Homelessness

vision
status = better

Our basic needs are met.

We live in affordable and stable housing with
access to open space and public amenities.

2,138 people were homeless on a given day in Travis County in 2016

Indicator: Number of people identified in the Austin/Travis County Annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count

Goal: End homelessness in Travis County

Target: 1,000 people experiencing homelessness, as identified in the annual Point In Time Count, by 2020

Key Trends: For the first time in several years, the number of people identified as homeless in the annual Point In Time Count increased. However, this indicator is rated “better” based on the five year trend line. There were fewer people identified as homeless on a given day in Travis County in 2016 than five years earlier. This annual count is conducted by the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) to identify people who, on a particular night, are housed in shelters or are living on the streets, in cars, or other areas not intended for human habitation.

Most advocates agree this annual count significantly under estimates the true extent of homelessness in our community. Throughout 2015, more than 7,000 unique individuals received homeless and homelessness prevention services. ECHO’s Homelessness Needs and Gaps Report includes more detailed data, based on Coordinated Assessments of 4,771 people seeking homeless services in our community. This analysis shows that African Americans are disproportionately represented in the homeless population. Blacks represent 8% of the total Travis County population, but 42% of individuals who are homeless.

what the data tell us

Last year, the number of people identified as homeless in the annual Point In Time count increased for the first time in five years. There was a 20% increase in the number of people identified during the annual Point in Time Count from 2015 to 2016. 63% of those identified as homeless were sheltered in emergency or other designated shelters, and 37% were unsheltered - living on the streets, in cars, or other areas not intended for human habitation. The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition provides additional data on individuals experiencing homelessness, including the number of individuals who receive services to end or prevent homelessness. Click here to view this information.

Definition: Number of people who were identified and counted as homeless in the Austin/Travis County Annual Point-in-Time Count. The Point in Time Count occurs nation-wide, as directed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Count identifies people who, on a particular 24-hour period, are experiencing homelessness. About two-thirds of those identified were “sheltered” in emergency or other designated shelters, and one-third were “unsheltered,” living on the streets, in cars, or other areas not intended for human habitation.

Data Source: Ending Community Homelessness Coalition

Data Considerations: Annual point-in-time counts reflect only the number of people who are sheltered in emergency or other homeless shelters or are identified by volunteers as being homeless during a given 24-hour period.

the story behind the indicator

For the first time in several years, the number of people identified as homeless in the annual Point In Time Count increased. From 2011 to 2015, the number of people identified as experiencing homelessness declined steadily. However, a 20% increase in the homeless population from 2015 to 2016 has all but eliminated those gains and brought the number of people identified as homeless near 2012 levels. The number of people experiencing homelessness is determined through the annual Point-in-Time Count. This count, mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, occurs during a specific 24-hour time period. It includes a count of those sheltered in temporary shelter as well as those who are unsheltered. ECHO coordinates hundreds of volunteers who fan out across the county to identify people experiencing homelessness.

During the 2016 Point-in-Time Count, 815 people were considered “unsheltered” or sleeping in an area not fit for human habitation. This represents about 37% of people considered homeless. The remaining 63% of people experiencing homelessness had a temporary place to stay, such as an emergency shelter, on the night local volunteers conducted the count.

Other measures of homelessness show a more severe problem. ECHO reports that, throughout 2015, more than 7,000 unique individuals received homeless services. Austin ISD reports a 54% increase in its homeless student population over the past five years, using a more broad definition of homelessness that includes families that are doubling up or living in hotels or campgrounds. Austin ISD reports 2,637 students were homeless in the 2014-2015 school year using the definition of homelessness in the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

African Americans are disproportionately represented in the homeless population, based on Coordinated Assessments of almost 4,771 people seeking homeless services. Blacks represent 8% of the total Travis County population, but 42% of individuals who are homeless. This is the highest rate of disproportionality found for any of the indicators in the CAN Dashboard.

a closer look

Click on one of the titles below for more information.

» homelessness & total population by race and ethnicity, austin/Travis County, 2015

There is a highly disproportionate representation of Blacks in the Austin/Travis County homeless population. African Americans are 8% of the total Travis County population but 42% of the homeless population. Other races and ethnicities are under-represented in the homeless population.

Definition: Number of people who were identified and counted as homeless in the Austin/Travis County Annual Point-in-Time Count, by sheltered status

Data Source: Ending Community Homelessness Coalition

Data Considerations: This data was calculated based on the Coordinated Assessments of 4,771 local homeless individuals. It was reported in ECHO’s Austin Homelessness Needs and Gaps Report, March 30, 2016.

» number of students experiencing homelessness, Austin ISD

During the 2014-2015 school year, Austin ISD’s Project Help program identified 2,637 students within the district who were either homeless, doubling up with relatives or others, or living in hotels, camp grounds, cars or other non-permanent housing. Over the past five years, there has been was a 54% increase in the number of students who were homeless, based on the definition of homelessness found in the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

AISD’s Project HELP (Hope & Empowerment—Leveraging Possibilities) program provides services to these students to help them be academically successful.

Definition: The number of students in the Austin Independent School District who were identified and counted as homeless by Project Help

Data Source: Austin ISD Project Help

Data Considerations: While Project Help works to serve homeless students within Austin ISD, identifying students who are experiencing homelessness is not so simple. If a student is not homeless at the time of enrollment and becomes homeless at some point during the school year, there is a chance that they would not be identified by the school district as being homeless.

» Additional Facts about Homelessness in Travis County, 2015

Ending Community Homelessness Coalition has worked with area agencies that serve people who are homeless or are at risk of homelessness to develop a Coordinated Assessment process to assess individuals and families needs and to direct them to the most appropriate services. The data below reflects data collected through the assessment of 4, 771 people in Austin and Travis County, as reported in the Austin Homelessness Needs and Gaps Report, March 30, 2016.

Characteristics of those experiencing homelessness in Austin/Travis County

  • 62% are males
  • 20% are children
  • 28% have experienced domestic violence
  • 60% report a problem with drugs/alcohol
  • 45% report a current mental health issue
  • 63% report having been in the emergency room in the past 6 months
  • 40% report being taken to hospital in an ambulance in the past 6 months
  • 33% report being hospitalized

» 2016 Point-In-Time Homeless count by council district

This map shows the distribution of the unsheltered homeless population in Travis County in 2016. People experiencing homelessness without shelter are largely concentrated in Downtown Austin. Large populations were also counted in North Austin, East Austin, and the East Riverside area.

Map showing 2016 Point-In-Time Homeless count by council district

Definition: number of people who were identified and counted as unsheltered homeless in the Austin/Travis County Annual Point-in-Time Count by Austin City Council District

Data Source: Ending Community Homelessness Coalition

Data Considerations: This data reflects only the number of people who were identified by volunteers as being an unsheltered homeless person on January 22, 2016. This data does not include homeless persons who were living in shelters, transitional housing, or in marginal conditions such as a motel or on a friend’s sofa on that date. There was also one person counted in unincorporated Travis County, one person counted in Sunset Valley, and three people who were missing data.

some local efforts to improve this indicator

Collaborative Initiatives

  • The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) acts as the lead planning entity that works with area agencies that serve those who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. ECHO coordinates the application process for, and management of, homeless services funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In Fiscal Year 2015, this totaled $5.6 million. ECHO works with local agencies that serve people who are homeless to conduct a Coordinated Assessment process to ensure people are referred to the most appropriate services.

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  • ECHO was chosen in 2015 as one of six entities nation-wide to receive a Pay for Success Feasibility Grant from the Corporation for Supportive Housing. This three-year technical assistance grant will help create a model to better meet the needs of frequent users of emergency rooms, jails, and shelter services. ECHO is working with partners, including Central Health, Travis County Justice Planning, and Austin Travis County Integral Care to find ways to respond to the needs of the 250 top users of these public systems in ways that better meet their needs and save public dollars.

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  • A Roof Over Austin is an initiative of the City of Austin to provide deeply affordable housing with services to help homeless, disabled and low‐income people live independently in the community. The initiative is in response to an Austin City Council resolution passed in 2010 that directed City staff to develop a strategy to create 350 permanent supportive housing units by 2014. In 2014, the City of Austin met its goal, and set a new goal of an additional 400 units in the next four years, including 200 ‘housing first’ units. “Housing First” is a low-barrier service approach that helps people achieve housing and them makes services ready available, but does not require services or specific behaviors as a requirement for housing.

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  • Best Single Source Plus is a collaborative effort among a dozen non‐profit agencies to help families and individuals in crisis who are at risk of homelessness. Clients receive emergency financial assistance and case management services to help them become more stable. The program is funded by the City of Austin and Travis County and is managed by Caritas of Austin.

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  • Creating and preserving affordable housing is a key strategy for reducing homelessness. In November 2013, voters in the City of Austin approved the issuance $65 million of general obligation bonds for affordable housing. The bonds finance the construction and preservation of affordable rental and ownership housing in Austin. This bond funding can be used by local affordable housing developers to leverage additional funding from other sources, such as the State of Texas and private entities. This was the second time voters have approved the use of general obligation bonds to fund affordable housing. In 2006, Austin voters approved a $55 million affordable housing bond package.

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Plans, Data, and Reports

  • To address homelessness in Austin, ECHO has developed a Framework for Housing Stability. Strategies for implementing the framework include providing multiple, but limited, points of entry; embracing diversion strategies, including short-term financial assistance and landlord mediation; devoting specialized staff for assessment, case management, and housing; and data sharing among partner organizations.

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  • The Downtown Austin Plan, adopted in 2011, includes providing permanent supportive housing as one of its goals.

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  • Travis County’s Phase One Strategic Plan for the Bureau of Justice Assistance Justice and Mental Health Collaborative Program is targeted to individuals suffering from mental illness and a co-occurring substance abuse disorder who were booked into the Travis County. Housing is reported to be an issue for one-third of this target population and some of the target population is homeless. The plan recommends strategies such as providing housing to defendants who would otherwise not be released on personal bond and housing homeless defendants that need additional court supervision.

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vulnerable populations