NATIONALHOMELESS.ORG
Twitter Facebook Instagram YouTube

Posts Tagged ‘Homeless Counts’

Los Angeles California: Homelessness Capital of the United States Mortality Study

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

Overview by Teresa Paterson, Intern Fall 2021

A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health shows that deaths among people experiencing homelessness (PEH) in Los Angeles County almost doubled from 2015 to 2019, increasing from 741 to 1,267 over the course of 5 years.

The study used Point-in-Time homeless counts (extremely flawed data, but all the public information that advocates have available) to obtain data on changes in numbers of PEH in the County, as well as additional demographic surveys to have a breakdown based on age, gender, and race/ethnicity. They then used medical examiner data in order to estimate general mortality trends among PEH as well as cause-specific mortality trends compared to the general LA County population.

Based on this data, the study found PEH had an almost 3 times higher risk of mortality compared to the general population of LA County. This disparity was even higher when looking at specific causes of death: PEH were 35 times more likely to die of drug overdoses; 15.3 times more likely to die of traffic injury; 14.3 times more likely to die of homicide, and 7.7 times more likely to die of suicide. Additionally, while the study found that White PEH had a higher mortality rate than Black PEH, they also stated that Black people accounted for 34% of homeless compared to 9% of the general population. The authors suggest that both the over-representation of Black people among PEH and their lower mortality rate compared to White PEH were likely a result of racism and discrimination – Black PEH were more likely to become homeless due to socioeconomic conditions tied to systemic racism while White PEH were more likely to accumulate a combination of mental, behavioral, and physical conditions over time before becoming homeless.

Having a better understanding of mortality trends among PEH is crucial for governments to create and implement more effective public health policies that address the dangers of homelessness. LA County used the results of this study to inform the establishment of a homeless mortality prevention initiative. The study demonstrated that drug overdoses increased by 69% from 2015-2019, becoming the leading cause of death in 2017. Given the increased risk of drug overdoses, the initiative decided to prioritize policies that improved substance use disorder services and increased interim and permanent housing options for people receiving treatment for substance use disorder.

If governments want their policies to truly address the needs of PEH in their community and to prevent deaths, they must have accurate data and knowledge of the dangers PEH face as a result of homelessness. Homelessness is a matter of life or death; this study drives home the serious health impacts homelessness has on PEH and the urgency for governments to take immediate action to end homelessness.

Homelessness is No Longer an Emergency: Commentary on the release of the 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report

Written by Brian Davis on . Posted in Blog

There was a time in US history, around 35 years ago, that homelessness was an emergency. There were a few long term homeless people who were well known around town (Otis from Andy Griffith Show), but the majority of the population were unfamiliar with the concept of homelessness and when it occurred, religious groups, neighbors and sometimes government would quickly respond. If a family with children were to show up without a place to live, the community would not rest until that family was in a safe space.

We started opening church basements, then government office buildings at night when they were not used, and eventually gymnasiums, but all under the banner of a temporary space while this emergency is dealt with in the United States.  We, the people, all recognized housing was the best for everyone concerned and the leadership of the dominant religions, community groups and local government all had a common set of beliefs that housing was a critical need for a functioning society. This is all to say that the Department of Housing and Urban Development released their 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report Part 1 on March 18, 2021, which is the exact opposite of homelessness as an emergency. 

This is not a criticism of HUD.  They stepped up when no other federal agency was willing to take on the challenges of addressing homelessness in America.  The staff at HUD have saved millions of Americans from hypothermia, exploitation, and death with the housing and services they have funded.  Everyone who has ever worked at HUD should be proud of the amazing things accomplished with so little.  They have had to deal with every hole in the US social safety net while attempting to manage the complex world of financing affordable housing. When AIDS was ravishing our community, HUD stepped up with housing opportunities.  When Veterans were not being served well by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, HUD stepped up with services and housing.  When the opioid crisis was killing Americans at an alarming rate, HUD was there with permanent supportive housing.  

But the reality is that they have institutionalized homelessness as an industry to manage poor people, and unfortunately most of those individuals and family members come from a minority population.  It is now studied, counted, tested, screened, assessed, observed but never solved.  How is it useful to report on the number of homeless people in January of 2020 before a pandemic hit the country if we considered homelessness an emergency?  Sure, if this was an after action report a year and a half after Katrina to tell the American public what went wrong and what we can do better next time, then this would be a useful piece of information.  The 580,466 people identified by HUD in January 2020 who were homeless on that one day may still be homeless today.  They are still living through the nightmare of waking up in the morning not knowing where they will lay their head tonight.  We are still living through this crisis as a nation 35 years on, and we should not be spending our time counting people when so many are sleeping in tents in the richest country on the planet.  

When Hurricane Laura hit Cameron Louisiana in August 2020, FEMA did not send volunteers out to count the number of people who lost their housing and then work on a report for the next 14 months on the demographics of those who lost their housing.  That would be unthinkable and useless information to have.  Presumably by the 14 month mark, all of those people would have settled their insurance claims and would be well on their way to returning to normal.  To the person facing eviction, they feel like a hurricane just hit their life and they want government and community groups to respond with highest degree of urgency.  It is so frustrating and upsetting to see resources spent on an annual assessment, a central intake, a survey to assess the best service for your needs, and a shelter being built to house 400 people a night when the mom is just looking for a safe secure quiet place to rock her child to sleep.  The fact that every city in America now has an Office or Department of Homeless Services and few have a Department of Housing Placement or an Office of Job Referral is the clearest sign that we have made the crisis into a way of life.  

The National Coalition for the Homeless appreciates that HUD recognizes how racist the system has become in saying, “people of color are significantly over-represented among people experiencing homelessness.” That is not really news that needed a study.  Just because members of Congress don’t believe that homelessness is real or that racism exists, we should not have to spend millions on reports for them.  They will continue to stick their head in the sand no matter if there is a report from HUD or just the word of advocates who testify before them.  We could have told you that more people were homeless in January 2020 just based on the increase in requests for food, the kids who reported being homeless in schools across the United States and the call volume to the 211 system.  We really did not need a report to say that American is failing to deliver a basic human right: housing.  The report is deeply flawed in its methodology and we have written about that in the past, but the conclusions are important. Things were bad in January of 2020 and they only got worse during the pandemic.  Now what are we going to do about it?  

Pandemic Cancels Homeless Count in Many Jurisdictions -Good Riddance

Written by Brian Davis on . Posted in Blog

By Brian Davis

Every January volunteers, under a mandate from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, march out to the streets and interview people experiencing homelessness in order to document numbers. Because of the pandemic many jurisdictions are cancelling their counts, and I hope the new HUD administration cancels this ritual for good.

HUD’s annual Point-In-Time (PIT) counts are meant to provide critical data about individuals living outside and in shelters, as well as demonstrate the overall need from year to year. But I find these piecemeal counts to be invasions of privacy and useless. Have service providers ever enacted any programmatic changes because more people were discovered living outside? Have any cities or counties announced that volunteers saw a huge number of expectant mothers and so they were immediately opening a shelter for new moms? As far as I am aware, little, if anything, positive has come of the PIT counts.  

Cities have dramatically different approaches to “counting,” and beyond training prior to counts, there is little local or national oversight of the process. Large numbers of people are missed in the count, such as those who ride public transportation all night, people who are staying with friends or family for the night, or those staying in vehicles, abandoned buildings and motel rooms (some of which are not officially counted as ‘homeless’ by HUD). The inadequacies of how the counts are collected give community leaders and the media a distorted picture of the extent of the problem. Media reports rarely explore the shortfalls of PIT data, but just emphatically state that homelessness was up or down over the last year.

Finally, a one day snapshot of homelessness does not equal a trend. Can you imagine the outcry if the local weather person said that because on January 23, 2018, it was 24 degrees and the same day in 2019 it was 12 degrees, this proves that global warming is a hoax?

The effort that goes into these annual counts could be much better used to move people into safe, decent, affordable and accessible housing. 

Read more:
Arkansas Cancels Count
San Jose Commentary on the Count
Perspective on the counts from Outside the US
San Antonio Cancels Count

NATIONALHOMELESS.ORG

National Coalition for the Homeless | 2201 P St NW, Washington, DC 20037 | (202) 462-4822 | info [at] nationalhomeless [dot] org
© 2022 National Coalition for the Homeless | Privacy Policy
Wildcard SSL Certificates
Powered by Warp Theme Framework