One-night count finds more homeless in Durham

jwise@newsobserver.comFebruary 22, 2013 

— A one-night count found more homeless people in Durham overall than last year but also saw some significant declines.

The annual “point-in-time count” Jan. 30 found 759 individuals in homeless shelters, transitional housing or on the streets. That was up 9 percent from 698 counted in 2012, but the number lacking any shelter at all fell from 63 to 53.

The number of chronic homeless, people in and out of housing year after year, decreased from 134 to 87, the lowest figure since 2005; and homeless veterans, a particular concern of federal homeless programs and the Department of Veterans Affairs, decreased from 116 to 93.

City Community Development Director Reginald Johnson announced the count results Friday.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires point-in-time counts in late January each year for communities that receive federal grants for homeless services. HUD uses the data to evaluate federal programs for the homeless.

Chuck Bridger, executive director of the Raleigh/Wake Partnership to End and Prevent Homelessness, said he did not have final results of Wake County’s count, but preliminary figures were 1,111, with 96 unsheltered, down from 1,116 in 2012, with 188 unsheltered.

“The difference between sheltered and unsheltered can be as simple as the weather,” Bridger said. “More folks will move to a shelter when the weather is really harsh.”

Bridger said he did not know when final numbers and breakdowns will be finished.

Orange County’s figures should be compiled by the end of next week, said Jamie Rohe, the county’s coordinator for homeless programs.

Point-in-time counts are done using HUD guidelines and definitions and have “very limited usefulness” for anyone trying to determine a community’s true extent of homelessness, Rohe said.

It does not include those in jail, hospitals or other institutions who have no homes to go to when released, nor does it include persons “doubled up” in others’ households on a temporary basis.

“It doesn’t count all the people who are hidden, like living in a car at Walmart,” she said.

Bridger said Wake County’s counters identified 115 individuals who did not meet HUD criteria for being “homeless.”

“They had a roof, but it was only temporary,” he said.

Bo Glenn, chairman of Durham’s Homeless Services Advisory Committee, made a similar point.

“It’s statistical data,” he said. “It’s one night. ... It does not include those sleeping on someone’s couch, in an unheated garage or in the woods so deep we can’t find them.”

Glenn said he hopes the homeless numbers fall in 2014, but “it’s going to be harder” because of actions by the General Assembly.

“By cutting unemployment benefits by 25 percent, by denying Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of people, by taking away the earned-income tax credit,” Glenn said, “many people are going to be a little bit closer to that time when they can’t pay the rent.”

Wise: 919-641-5895

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