Hurricane Harvey causes bump in homeless count for 2018

HOUSTON - For homeless in Houston, the numbers are in, and while the data is disappointing, it certainly could have been much, much worse.

“So while the numbers are slightly higher than in years past, I feel we were really able to mitigate the impact that Hurricane Harvey could have had,” says Eva Thibaudeau, Vice President of Programs for the Coalition for the Homeless.

In January, teams ventured out into Greater Houston to take a count of our brothers and sisters living on the streets.

Area shelters also self-reported the number of guests under their roofs that night, giving the city a snapshot of what homelessness in H-town looks like.

At a morning gathering, hosted by Coalition for the Homeless, the results of the annual homeless count for Harris, Montgomery and Fort Bend counties were released.

On that day in January, 1,614 of our neighbors spent the night with no roof over their head, and 2,529 were sleeping in a shelter.

In the same count in 2017, there were 486 fewer unsheltered, and there were 52 fewer sheltered homeless counted.

“We did see an uptick of our street population about 500 or so, and over half of those stated that Harvey was their reason for becoming homeless. We didn't see as much of an increase as we could have. We did a lot of prevention work after Hurricane Harvey got about 1,000 people who were facing homelessness into housing with supportive services,” said Thibaudeau.

Looking from an even longer perspective, from 2011 to 2018, The Way Home, a collaborative of organizations led by the Coalition for the Homeless, has decreased homelessness by 51%.

But as progress is made, that job gets increasingly more difficult.  That's because the answer to homelessness in Houston is housing, which isn't always easy.

"The people that got housed first were those that had their documentation together, who were lucid and could tell you their name, who weren't battling with a serious mental illness or a serious substance abuse disorder to where they couldn't communicate with our housing navigation folks the folks who are left now really face biggest barriers, the biggest criminal history the longest time homeless the most disconnected," Thibaudeau explained.

While Harvey destroyed the homes of many, it did nothing to damage the resolve of those working to prevent and end homelessness in Houston.