Jan 8, 2024 - News

Homelessness rose among veterans in Texas last year

Estimated homelessness rate, January 2023
Data: HUD; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

Homelessness across Texas increased last year, especially for veterans, a new federal report found.

Driving the news: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development last month released its 2023 report on people experiencing homelessness.

  • The report attempts to offer a snapshot by estimating the number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night — in this case, in late January 2023.
  • Texas' data comes from 11 homeless services and prevention agencies across the state in six major cities, two largely urban areas and three largely rural areas.

By the numbers: Texas saw a 13% increase in people experiencing homelessness from 2022 (24,432) to 2023 (27,377).

  • In contrast, homelessness in Texas decreased by 10% from 2020 to 2022.

State of play: Texas had one of the largest jumps in the number of veterans experiencing homelessness from 2022 to 2023, per the report — an increase of 19%, or 325 veterans.

  • San Antonio and Dallas combined to account for more than one-third of that increase.
  • But since 2009, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness in Texas is down about 63%.

Context: Texas has a lower rate of homelessness than the national average — about 9 in every 10,000 people in Texas experience homelessness, compared with 20 in every 10,000 people nationally.

  • But we also have a larger number of unhoused people than most states because of our large population.

Yes, but: Some advocates believe point-in-time counts can be misleading and may drastically underestimate the true number of houseless people.

What they're saying: "There are a lot of veterans out there," Pete Barrera, senior outreach manager at Haven for Hope, tells Axios. "People don't realize they qualify for benefits."

  • Veterans face particular challenges around mental health and substance abuse, Barrera says.
  • Haven for Hope has a veterans service team to work with people beyond securing immediate shelter needs, like helping them apply for veterans or disability benefits.

Zoom in: In Bexar County, the overall number of people experiencing homelessness was up in 2023 from 2022, per the local point-in-time count released last May.

  • The number of homeless families with at least one child was especially on the rise locally, up 60% from 2021 to 2023.
  • The city of San Antonio entered 2024 planning to increase the number of cleanups it conducts at homeless camps.

Of note: Many pandemic-era social safety net programs — such as income protection and eviction moratoriums — expired by the time the 2023 count was conducted, the report notes.

  • Shelters, meanwhile, largely went back to full capacity after capping admittance during the pandemic.
  • Both factors complicate comparisons of 2023's numbers with those from pandemic years, the report warns.

Zoom out: U.S. homelessness reached a record high in 2023, with about 653,100 people experiencing homelessness.

  • Homelessness increased by about 12% nationwide between 2022 and 2023, per the report.

What's next: Close to Home — the point agency for homeless services and prevention in Bexar County — will conduct the next local point-in-time count on Jan. 23.

  • Its findings will be released later this year.
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