May 4, 2023 - News

Houston unsheltered homelessness declines

Photo of the Houston skyline.

Photo: Aaron M. Sprecher/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Overall homelessness in the Houston area remained flat from last year, with the number of people living on the street down and the number of people in shelters up.

Driving the news: The Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County, which coordinates and oversees the region’s homelessness response, released the results of its annual homelessness census Wednesday.

  • The count, which is federally required by cities that receive funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, had about 450 volunteers who surveyed homeless people through every street in Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties in January.

Why it matters: Houston has been lauded for its long-term approach to decreasing homelessness through the city's rehousing and permanent housing programs.

By the numbers: The count found there were 3,270 people who are homeless in the three counties, 2,989 of whom were in Harris County.

  • From Jan. 25-27, volunteers counted 1,242 people living unsheltered on the streets — a 17% decline since 2022. The count also found 2,028 people staying in shelters, an increase of 18% over 2022.
  • 42% of unsheltered people were homeless for the first time — up from 40% in 2022.
  • Black people made up 55% of the population experiencing homelessness even though they make up only 20% of the area's population.
  • 9% of unsheltered people indicated they were homeless due to COVID, compared with 13% in 2022.

The big picture: Homelessness is down 61% since 2011, and more than 28,000 people have been placed in permanent housing since 2012.

Of note: The count is just a snapshot and does not capture the total number of people who experienced homelessness over the course of the past year.

  • It also cannot fully show the impact of evictions, as it does not count everyone who has lost housing due to eviction and is staying with friends and family or how many people are living in poverty.

What they're saying: "It is good news that homelessness hasn't risen despite the fact that evictions are higher than ever before and that Houston is the second-fastest-growing major metro area in the country," Michael Nichols, president and CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless, said in a statement.

  • "At the same time, we know that we will never be able to truly ‘solve’ homelessness without addressing the causes of homelessness, like lack of affordable housing, broken safety nets and systems, and poverty in general," he says.
  • "Although Houston is showing the state and nation how to reduce street homelessness and encampments successfully, the job is not done. We will continue our groundbreaking, successful efforts until every Houstonian is off our streets. We must do more," says Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Between the lines: The Houston region received more than $46 million in the 2022 fiscal year Continuum of Care funding for homelessness interventions including decommissioning encampments, permanent housing, supportive services, and planning funds.

What we're watching: As other cities in the coming weeks release their homeless counts, we'll see how Houston compares.

Plus: Houston's new housing navigation center, which provides temporary housing for unsheltered Houstonians while organizations work to find them permanent housing, opened after the count.

Go deeper: Here is the full report on Houston's homelessness count.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Houston.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Houston stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Houston.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more