AUSTIN, Texas — The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) on Thursday presented information from its Point in Time (PIT) Count for 2023. Data shows an uptick in the number of homeless people in Travis County, but the exit out of homelessness has also improved.
The purpose of the PIT Count is to provide the coalition with valuable information that garners better understanding of the lives of people experiencing homelessness. The biannual count is required by the Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and it allows them to compare estimates of homelessness across the country. Years 2021 and 2022 were exempt from the count because of COVID-19.
More than 700 volunteers lent a hand in the counting process conducted Jan. 28, 2023. According to their count, 2,374 people are experiencing homelessness in Travis County. A breakdown of those numbers show 1,266 people sleeping unsheltered and 1,108 in shelters or transitional housing.
The number of unsheltered people who said they first experienced homeless in Austin went up to 74.5% in 2023, whereas in 2020 it was 63.4%, according to data.
“In 2020, approximately 5.2% of people were counted in City of Austin-owned parks, nature preserves and greenbelts. In 2023, that number increased to 13.6%. As a proportion of all unsheltered homelessness, about three times as many people were living specifically in greenbelts and nature preserves in 2023 than they were in 2020,” stated ECHO.
Some of the most key differences between the 2020 and 2023 PIT Count are less unaccompanied youth and veterans who were identified as homeless in 2023. However, there’s a greater percentage of homeless men tallied now than in 2020.
With addressing homelessness in the community, ECHO has shown the homelessness response system to be favorable, as its capacity to house people has increased. More than any other year, 2022 saw a considerable exit out of homelessness into permanent housing. And something of note, more people moved into permanent supportive housing in 2022 than in any other year.
“The system’s capacity to house people (i.e., number of contracted year-round beds) in Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) has increased 59% since 2019 and 14% between 2022 and 2023. The System’s Emergency Shelter capacity has increased 28% since 2019 and 20% between 2022 and 2023,” according to ECHO.
Since the PIT Count has a few limitations with data collection, ECHO directs people to use administrative data for a more accurate measurement of “the transitory nature of homelessness.” Per HUD guidelines, the only people who can be counted are those that are seen in person, which makes it hard to include people that are hard to reach. So, institutions like hospitals and jails are excluded from the count.
The Austin/Travis County Homelessness Response Dashboard, according to ECHO, is a fair representation of homelessness in the community. For more information, check out one of ECHO’s latest blogs.
To watch the full presentation of the 2023 PIT Count, view the YouTube video below.