A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report says homelessness has declined in Tennessee and the nation, but some advocates for the homeless are questioning the figures, reports the Times-Free Press.
The report says some communities are “making significant progress.” But it also acknowledges others struggle because of a “crisis” in the lack of affordable housing, budget shortfalls and what officials characterize as “slow adoption of best practices.”
Figures are based on HUD’s annual “point-in-time” estimates, which attempt to measure the breadth of homelessness on a single night in January. The report includes families staying in homeless shelters and families identified by volunteers who survey streets, parks, all-night businesses and other places where homeless people gather.
HUD says Tennessee communities reported 9,123 persons experienced homelessness, representing an 11 percent decline since 2010 when Obama’s “comprehensive strategy” to prevent and end homelessness was launched.
The report also says homelessness among Tennessee military veterans fell by 17 percent between 2014 and January 2015. Family homelessness declined 9 percent and chronic homelessness fell 40 percent between 2010 and January 2015, according to the report.
Nationally, the report says veteran homelessness plummeted 36 percent between 2010 and 2015 while family homelessness dropped 19 percent. Chronic homelessness fell 22 percent.
…First Focus Campaign for Children, the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth as well as the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare say that when officials make counts, they measure capacity and not needs.
That ignores situations where shelters are often full, many communities have no shelters at all and there are shelters “inappropriate” for families or youths, they say.
In Chattanooga, Maj. Algerome Newsome of the Salvation Army said from what he sees the number of homeless “really hasn’t gone down.”
“The actual number’s going to increase,” Newsome added. “The problem with the point-in-count is it kind of misses most of the time because the way they gather those figures is they’ll often go into the shelter and talk to people and kind of branch out.”
But Newsome said it ignores factors such as a “shifting population,” where some homeless people find their way to warmer climes during winter.