May 3, 2023 -- Results for the greater Houston area’s annual Homeless Count and Survey were released today, revealing a remarkable, one-year 17 percent decrease in street homelessness from January 2022 to January 2023. The reduction is one of the biggest in the city’s history and the largest since Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017.
In 2020, Mayor Sylvester Turner partnered with Harris County to specifically reduce the number of individuals and families living on Houston’s streets. The city and county jointly funded and worked with The Way Home, our region’s homeless response system comprised of more than 100 agencies and organizations, to launch the nationally recognized COVID-19 Homeless Housing Program.
Last year alone, the program housed (with supportive services) or diverted from homelessness more than 4,580 people.
“Reducing homelessness by 17% in one year, and nearly 40 percent since coming into office, does not happen by mistake,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Rather, it’s the result of making it a top priority, enhancing our invaluable partnership with Harris County and the community, and strategically funding data-proven, holistic housing solutions.
Although Houston is showing the state and nation how to reduce street homelessness and encampments successfully, the job is not done. We will continue our groundbreaking, successful efforts until every Houstonian is off our streets. We must do more.”
The City and County’s focus on holistically decommissioning encampments through housing also significantly reduced street homelessness. The city and county worked with the Coalition for the Homeless and agencies of The Way Home to house individuals out of encampments strategically. To date, 85 encampments (nearly 500 people) have been compassionately and effectively decommissioned, with 90% of encampment inhabitants going into housing.
The Coalition for the Homeless coordinated the annual count. More than 450 volunteers spent three days canvassing the region’s streets, bayous, woods, parking lots, etc., locating individuals who are experiencing homelessness. Volunteers counted 1,242 individuals people living unsheltered in the greater Houston area, of which:
Many cities are experiencing an increase in homelessness due to the expiration of rental assistance programs, a sizable increase in evictions, and looming inflation. The greater Houston area, however, successfully prevented such an increase, as the size of the region’s overall homeless population stayed relatively unchanged. An Independent analysis by the UTHealth Houston School of Public Health noted, “the 2023 count would have been higher had (homeless) housing initiatives not been underway.”
More than 9,000 formerly homeless individuals were residing in safe and stable, permanent housing (with services) during the count, up nearly 30 percent from 2020 and almost 60% from 2014.
Although well below pre-pandemic levels, the number of people residing in homeless shelters increased from the previous year, as shelter capacity increased with beds that were closed during the pandemic returning online (primarily at congregate, family shelters).