The number of chronically homeless people in Tarrant County decreased by 59 percent, to 136, in 2015, down from 331 in 2014, according to an annual report by the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition.
The report is based on an annual survey conducted by the TCHC in January, a “Point in Time” count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless people on a single night.
Last year, the coalition reported a significant spike in chronic homelessness, leading the agency to redouble its efforts and pay special attention to prioritizing the hardest-to-house population and getting them into permanent supportive housing.
Cindy Crain, executive director of the TCHC, said it was not an easy policy change, with her agency becoming a “gatekeeper” to make sure the permanent supportive beds went to clients who met the chronically homeless definition and could provide enough documentation to prove it.
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“This is just the reality of dispersing sparse resources and getting to the goal,” Crain said.
The TCHC’s goal is to dedicate 85 percent of all permanent supportive housing to the chronically homeless.
A chronically homeless person is someone who has a disabling condition and has been continuously homeless for at least a year, or homeless at least four times in the past three years, according to the United States Department of Housing. Permanent supportive housing is targeted at those who have been homeless the longest and experience severe mental or physical disabilities that require supportive services.
The total number of homeless people in the count was 1,944. That’s a decrease compared with last year’s total of 2,451, but the number is deceiving because of a reclassification of the way homeless people are counted based on a mandate from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
HUD required the TCHC to reclassify transitional housing residents who were counted as homeless in 2014 to rapid rehousing, changing their status from homeless to permanently housed. The TCHC had 355 transitional housing beds in 2014.
Other highlights in the count, which was conducted on Jan. 22:
▪ 217 homeless people were living unsheltered, an increase of 18 percent from 184 in 2014;
▪ 193 homeless veterans, a decrease of 32 percent from 282 in 2014;
▪ 77.5 percent of the homeless in Tarrant County were in Fort Worth, followed by 14.6 percent in Arlington and 7.8 percent in Northeast Tarrant;
▪ Food, bus passes and water were named as the top three needs of the homeless.
Crain, who started the annual event in 2009 for awareness and to seek input, announced her resignation from the coalition in January. She is leaving for Dallas, where she will start her new post as the president of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance on March 2.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984