Dallas, Texas – Earlier today, Friday, May 13, 2022, in its eighth annual State of Homelessness Address, the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA) shared its findings from Dallas and Collin Counties’ 2022 COVID-19 Point in Time (PIT) Homeless Count. Speakers included Joli Angel Robinson, MDHA President and CEO, Peter Brodsky, MDHA Board Chair, Ashley Brundage, Board Chair of the Homeless Collaborative of Dallas and Collin Counties, and Ashley Flores, of the Child Poverty Action Lab.
The findings show that on any given night there are 4,410 individuals experiencing homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties (Almost 4,000 in Dallas County and a little more than 400 in Collin County). This represents the lowest count since 2019. Though there remains significant variation among subpopulations, when coupled with data collected throughout the year, this snapshot reveals that Dallas and Collin Counties’ scaling of permanent housing solutions is working.
“COVID-19 and extreme winter weather greatly impacted individuals, organizations, and systems, including our homeless rehousing system. Although these events have impacted all of us, the trends supported by this year’s PIT count data, are a direct result of our community’s tremendous commitment to serving our unhoused neighbors, increasing housing interventions, and building our system’s overall capacity to effectively serve those experiencing homelessness,” said Joli Angel Robinson.
Ashley Brundage also leads the Dallas Rental Assistance Collaborative, at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, which throughout the pandemic provided rental and utility assistance so people could stay in their homes. She agrees with Robinson: “We are one coordinated system that brings partners together around a common vision of making homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring.”
Data collected throughout 2021 shows that the rate at which individuals exit to permanent housing is at an all-time high, practically doubling between 2018 and 2021 from 16% to 30%. This reflects the increase of rapid rehousing beds from a little over 300, in 2019, to almost 1,100, today. Rapid rehousing quickly connects people to permanent housing through rental assistance and wrap around services. Research shows this approach is a best practice for most of the homeless population.
Family homelessness decreased by over 20% since 2019, from 1,025 to 822. While there was some loss of capacity in family shelter space on the night of the count due to disruptions caused by the pandemic, this finding indicates that the practice of diversion is working for families in our community. This best practice addresses the immediate needs of families who have just lost their housing, helping them find safe alternative housing immediately, rather than entering shelter or experiencing unsheltered homelessness.
Veteran homelessness dropped by over 26%, from 423 to 314, since 2019. “Thank you to the VA (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs), Supportive Services for Veteran Families, and our homeless rehousing system partners for helping us get closer to our goal to effectively end veteran homelessness in our counties,” said Robinson.
The most concerning figure is the rise of the chronically homeless population from little more than 500 in 2019 and 2020 to over 1,000 in 2022. These individuals have a documented disability and have experienced long episodes of homelessness, which can cause or exasperate declines in mental and physical health. While some of the rise may be attributed to the system better identifying such individuals, these findings are consistent with national trends, which show a surge in chronic homelessness by more than 40% since 2016. (Prior to that, this group was significantly decreasing over time.)
This rise, MDHA analysis indicates, should be attributed to barriers to engagement with those living unsheltered, while the COVID-19 pandemic was raging, as well as insufficient permanent supportive housing stock, which is the best fit for the chronically homeless population. Permanent supportive housing, which provides long-term rental assistance and intense wrap around services, has grown by only 5% since 2020.
Another concerning figure found in the data collected throughout 2021 is the slight rise in returns to homelessness. Of those who exited to permanent housing destinations, 22% returned to homelessness within 2 years, up from 17% in 2019. This reflects skyrocketing housing costs, which have outpaced incomes, making it difficult for vulnerable families to maintain housing, system leaders believe. “No state has an adequate supply of affordable rental housing for the lowest income renters. The housing gap is most acute for the lowest income households,” stressed Ashley Flores, of the Child Poverty Action Lab. A recent report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows that there are only 20 affordable and available rental units for every 100 extremely low-income renters in Dallas.
The homeless count findings show that while Black households make up 18% of the general population of Dallas and Collin Counties, they make up 54% of their homeless population. “This imbalance has persisted, and it is unsurprising. It is a by-product of systemic inequities that continue to perpetuate disparities in areas such as income, wealth, housing, healthcare, and incarceration, which directly impact rates of homelessness,” emphasized Robinson, who is the first Black person to lead MDHA.
Taken together, system leaders believe, this wealth of data points to clear next steps: MDHA and its partners must successfully implement the Dallas R.E.A.L Time Rapid Rehousing initiative, rehousing over 2,700 individuals and families. “This historic undertaking will go down in our community’s history, as one of its most transformational projects,” said Peter Brodsky. Diversion practices, which keep families from having to enter the homeless rehousing system, must be expanded. The focus on effectively ending veteran homelessness must be maintained, and permanent supportive housing must be scaled to meet the needs of those trapped in chronic homelessness. Finally, the community at large must address its affordable housing crisis, as well as identify and respond to the racial inequities that limit housing opportunities for People of Color.
Robinson ended with calls to action, for funders and homeless services providers to continue to align with the homeless rehousing system, and for citizens to vocalize their support for their government representatives to do the same: “We have been presented with a historic opportunity, to end the modern homelessness crisis, a crisis that has dogged our nation and our community. Each and every one of you have a part to play, and we all must work together.”
The State of Homelessness Address may be viewed in its entirety on MDHA’s website, where MDHA will also post an independent analysis of the Point in Time Count, written by Dr. Catherine Troisi, Associate Professor at Houston’s UTHealth School of Public Health.
The Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA) leads the development of an effective homeless rehousing system. In partnership with 100+ public, private, and nonprofit institutions, MDHA ensures that the experience of homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties is rare, brief, and non-recurring.
Watch the FULL recording of the 2022 State of Homelessness Address: