Jan 11, 2024 - News

Dallas-Fort Worth volunteers needed for annual homelessness count

Estimated homelessness rate, January 2023
Explore the interactive map. Data: HUD; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

North Texas agencies tracking homelessness are seeking volunteers to assist in the annual homeless census this month.

Why it matters: The federally required point-in-time count occurs just one night a year and tracks trends in homelessness, including how many veterans are unhoused, how many people have been on the street for more than a year and how many families are experiencing homelessness.

  • These metrics affect federal housing funds and help local nonprofits measure need.

Driving the news: The next homeless census takes place the night of Jan. 25. Volunteers will spread out across North Texas to ask people on the street about their living conditions.

  • Emergency shelters and transitional homes will also tally how many people are staying for the night.

The big picture: Texas saw a 13% increase in people experiencing homelessness from 2022 to 2023, per the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development state-by-state report.

  • Yes, but: the state has a lower rate of homelessness than the national average — about 9 in every 10,000 Texans experience homelessness, compared with 20 in every 10,000 people nationally.

Zoom in: Tallied homelessness increased in parts of North Texas last year compared to 2022, with veteran homelessness seeing the largest spike.

  • Overall homelessness in Tarrant County jumped by 22%, with veteran homelessness up 27%. Dallas and Collin counties were down 4% overall, but veteran homelessness increased 21%.

State of play: Many pandemic-era safety net programs expired before the 2023 homeless census, which may account for the increase in people experiencing homelessness locally, statewide and nationally.

  • Homelessness declined between 2020 and 2022.

How you can help: Housing Forward is seeking volunteers in Collin and Dallas counties. The organization is also seeking donations for gender-neutral care packages.

  • United Way of Denton County is seeking volunteers and donations here.
  • Tarrant County Homeless Coalition is seeking help here.
  • You must be 18 or older to participate.

How it works: Volunteers work in groups of three to five people and travel through assigned neighborhoods to tally people experiencing homelessness.

  • They also ask demographic questions of the people willing to answer.
  • The counts typically start at sunset and continue until midnight.

The bottom line: The more people able to help conduct the annual census, the more likely the true numbers will be captured.

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