The homeless population in Tarrant and Parker counties dropped slightly in January compared with a year ago, according to a report being released Thursday.
While Arlington and Northeast Tarrant County saw significant drops in numbers, Fort Worth saw a 7.3 percent increase, according to a count of the homeless population on Jan. 26, an annual task conducted by the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition.
In all, 1,924 people were counted as either living unsheltered, and in emergency shelters or in transitional housing on that day. That is down 0.7 percent from 1,938 counted as homeless in 2016, the agency said. In 2015, 1,914 homeless were counted.
In the last five years, the highest number of homeless was 2,425 in 2014.
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Otis Thornton, executive director of the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, who is releasing the numbers at three separate briefings Thursday, said the agency had more than 500 volunteers, the highest ever, helping with the count this year.
The agency relies on local law enforcement to help volunteers find where the homeless are located.
For us, the biggest impediment of ending homelessness is the extreme shortage of affordable housing. Literally, there’s no where for them to turn.
Otis Thornton, executive director of the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition
The bulk of the Tarrant County homeless are in Fort Worth. This year’s total on Jan. 26 was 1,594, up from 1,484 people counted as homeless in 2016.
Arlington’s homeless population dropped to 252, down 24.3 percent from 333 a year ago, and Northeast Tarrant County’s homeless population dropped to 66, or down 45.6 percent from 115 in 2016.
Parker County experienced an uptick, with volunteers counting 12 homeless people, or double the six counted in 2016.
7,441 Number of persons who experienced homelessness in 2016
Unemployment and not being able to afford rent or a mortgage are the leading contributors to homelessness locally, Thornton said.
In Tarrant and Parker counties, 23,567 households are living at or below the poverty level, or 30 percent of the area’s medium income; they are competing for 5,245 units, he said.
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington ranks among the lowest among communities nationwide, with the fewest available and affordable homes for low income people, according to the National Low Income Housing Solutions study called The Gap. Locally, 19 renter homes are available for every 100 renter households, the study said. It matches the San Diego-Carlsbad and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario areas of California.
Las Vegas is the worst, with only 12 available homes per 100 renter households, and the Boston area has the most, with 46, the report said.
“For us, the biggest impediment of ending homelessness is the extreme shortage of affordable housing,” Thornton said. “Literally, there’s nowhere for them to turn. We need to provide a home to all.”
To help in those efforts, the some 30 agencies that work with the homeless will be converting to a “coordinated entry” process, Thornton said.
Soon, homeless people will only need to go to one agency to fill out an application and go through an intake assessment to be placed on a waiting list, he said. The agencies will all work from the one waiting list to place people, he said.