Outcome: Physically Healthy and Safe
Children Experiencing Homelessness, as identified in the annual Point-in-Time Count
Progress: In the 2015 Point-in-Time Count of people experiencing homelessness, 552 children and youth under 24 were identified, representing 29% of the total population of people experiencing homelessness
Significance of this indicator: Being homeless endangers the physical health, social and emotional well-being, academic performance, and the very life of children. The consequences to society are enormous. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness "Homeless youth and young adults are at pronounced risk for physical abuse, sexual exploitation, mental health disabilities, chemical or alcohol dependency, and death."
what the data tell us
Each January, volunteers fan out across Travis County to count the number of people experiencing homelessness on a particular night, including people residing in emergency shelters and transitional housing, as well as those ‘living in a place not designed or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for humans,” according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. During the 2015 ‘Point-in-Time’ Count, there were 412 children under 18 and 140 youth between ages 18 and 24 identified as experiencing homelessness. Nearly all of the children under 18 and 62% of youth 18-24 counted that night were ‘sheltered’ or staying in an emergency shelter or transitional housing, although 55 children and youth were unsheltered. Overall, children and youth made up 29% of the population experiencing homelessness during the Point-in-Time count, including 8% of the unsheltered population and 41% of the sheltered population.
Definition: Age breakdown 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: Annual point-in-time counts reflect only the number of people who are identified by volunteers as being homeless on a given day each year. In 2010, postponement of the annual point-in-time count due to weather issues lowered the number of participating volunteers and may have affected the number of homeless persons who were identified and counted. Count numbers beginning in 2011 include people identified through the following programs that had not previously reported numbers for the point-in-time count: Grant/Per Diem Transitional Housing Program, Healthcare for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) Residential Treatment at McCabe Center, and a HCHV Residential Treatment program called A New Entry. Due to low temperatures, Cold Weather Shelters were open during the 2014 Point-in-Time Count, somewhat artificially raising the number of sheltered individuals
The story behind the indicator
Over the last five years, the total number of people experiencing homelessness in the Austin-Travis County area has declined. Since 2011, the number of people identified as experiencing homelessness has declined 22%, to 1,877 in 2015. From 2014 to 2015 alone, the number of individuals counted declined by about 6%. The number of people experiencing homelessness is determined through the annual Point-in-Time Count. Each year, as mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, volunteers fan out across the county to identify people experiencing homelessness.
During the 2015 Point-in-Time Count, 667 total people were considered ‘unsheltered’ or sleeping in an area not fit for human habitation. This represents about 36% of people considered homeless. The remaining 64% of people experiencing homelessness had a temporary place to stay, such as an emergency shelter, on the night local volunteers conducted the count. The PIT may not paint a full picture of the number of people in our community at risk for homelessness. In calendar year 2014, ECHO reported that 12,999 people received services at partner organizations, including permanent supportive housing and homelessness prevention services.
For more information on the overall population experiencing homelessness, see the Community Advancement Network’s Dashboard indicator on homelessness.
Some local efforts to improve this indicator
- The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) acts as the lead planning organization among area agencies working to put an end to homelessness in our community. 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 2014, this totaled $5.6 million. In 2014, ECHO began implementing Coordinated Assessment, a key component of their framework for housing stability. This process standardizes intake and client assessment among multiple partners. Participating organizations utilize specialized staff to assess clients’ needs using a common assessment. Provider staff then refer clients to the agency that can best meet their needs.
- 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.
- 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.
- Travis County Criminal Justice Planning received a grant from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance, Justice Reinvestment Initiative in order to facilitate access to permanent supportive housing and services for frequent users of the local criminal justice system who were homeless and diagnosed with a mental illness. The pilot project has utilized a rigorous evaluation to determine the effectiveness of the program.
- 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. As of the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2014, the City has expended about $8 million dollars, or 12%, of the $65 million of general obligation bonds. 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.
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.
- The Downtown Austin Plan, adopted in 2011, recommends includes providing permanent supportive housing as one of its goals.
- 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.
a closer look at the story behind the indicator
During the 2013-2014 school year, Austin ISD’s Project Help program identified 2,500 students within the district who were experiencing homelessness. This was a 24% increase over the number of homeless students who were identified during the 2012-2013 school year. The number of students identified as homeless has increased over the last several school years.
Definition: The number of students in the Austin Independent School District who were identified and counted as homeless by Project Help
Data Source: 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.