2017 Homeless Count
by David Levine, President/CEO
I want to share with you the results of the 2017 HUD Point-in-Time (PIT) Count. The annual count enumerates all who were literally homeless on January 25, 2017 in Fairfax County.
According to the County’s press release, with 964 persons reported as homeless in the January 2017 PIT Count, we have reduced the number of homeless persons to just inside 1,000. Since 2008, homelessness in the county has decreased 47 percent.
As a key nonprofit member of the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Partnership, GSH has greatly contributed to this decrease through our community-based permanent housing, support services, and homeless prevention services.
As current and former board members, your many contributions to GSH have had a role in the decrease in homelessness among our neighbors and within our community.
While success has to be acknowledged, there are also several challenging trends in the reported numbers. I’ll highlight some of the dynamics behind the homelessness of families in the County.
There was a 34 percent increase in the number of families in emergency shelter on that night, jumping from 64 families in 2016 to 86 families in 2017. All the family shelters that night were serving more people in the 2017 PIT Count than in the 2016 PIT Count. The PIT volunteers counted five families in overflow motel rooms and one homeless family living in a car.
It also happened that Artemis House, the main domestic violence family shelter in Fairfax County, expanded its capacity by 18 beds last year. While the additional capacity is keenly needed, it is also a sad commentary that homelessness caused by episodes of domestic violence is increasing and remains very present in our community.
One reason for the increase in the use of emergency shelter was the decrease in transitional housing units. Last year, with the cutoff of HUD funding, nearly all transitional housing programs were forced to shutdown in the county. Transitional housing units on the night of the PIT had 50 percent fewer chronically homeless people in the 2017 PIT Count than in the 2016 PIT Count.
In many ways, homelessness is like a very elastic water balloon: it drops in one spot and appears in another.