Are Federal Reports on Homelessness Illustrating a Clear Picture?

By Michelle Miller | December 18, 2018

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is reporting an uptick in homelessness three years in a row.

Does this mean there are more people experiencing homelessness? It’s hard to say, given the current metrics used to count “unsheltered” homelessness.

Unsheltered individuals are those which are sleeping in their cars or on the streets—not in a shelter. It does not take into account individuals and families staying in motels, couch surfing, or in other unstably housed situations. This means a potential gap of thousands of individuals not being accounted for.

The Point in Time count is currently the only metric used to gain a better understanding of how many people are experiencing homelessness in the United States.

The system is far from perfect.

Over the course of three nights every January, service providers and volunteers hit the streets to do a head count of unsheltered individuals. It’s not hard to imagine the estimated 194,000 unsheltered individuals in 2017 is on the low-end. There is a big push to get more affordable housing online. Is it needed? Absolutely. Is it the cure to homelessness? Absolutely not. Affordable housing, while necessary, is only one piece of the puzzle.  

Families and individuals who have been experiencing homeless for extended periods need help to become more self-sufficient by teaching job skills, social skills, and life skills so they can end the cycle of poverty and homelessness once and for all. Basic skills housed individuals take for granted such as cooking, cleaning, and budgeting.

You can give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. The time has come to grab our poles and head toward the water.