Homelessness is a known humanitarian issue in Austin, and according to the numbers, there’s some good news and some bad news regarding the battle to decrease the number of homeless individuals in the Texas capitol city.
The good news is that, according to KVUE ABC, there was an overall 25% reduction in youth homelessness, and a decrease in homeless veterans in Austin between 2018 and 2019.
The city of Austin began a program in 2017 with LifeWorks to help lower the number of homeless youth on the streets, and that program appears to be working.
Susan McDowell, CEO of LifeWorks told local Austin radio station KUT 90.5, “What these numbers are telling us is that what we are doing, the system we are building, is working. We have a lot of challenges in front of us, a lot of work and a lot of scaling to do,” McDowell told KUT 90.5, “But this is telling us that, working together, we can be successful, and it has bolstered our confidence and our own tenacity that we will make youth homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring by 2020.”
Austin’s homeless veteran population decreased from 68 homeless veterans in 2018, to 37 homeless veterans in 2019, according to KXAN.
While the number of homeless youth and veterans going down is a trend that is always welcome, it seems like the problem has spread to other demographics within the homeless population of Austin.
Austin ECHO (The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition) is a non-profit in Austin that “engages policymakers and the community to end homelessness” and their group of volunteers alongside city leaders conducted a point-in-time homeless count in January of 2018 and 2019. This count included children, families and adults going through homelessness in Travis Country, and an advocate told KVUE ABC the count takes place “to find out how many people need a safe to stay”.
In 2019 they found that the homeless population of Austin had increased by a total of 5%, with the total number of homeless individuals rising from 2,147 in 2018 to 2,255 in 2019.
While this increase may seem small in comparison to the total population in Austin, no one should have to experience homelessness and Austin ECHO is working with their partners to implement an “Action Plan to End Homelessness”, as reported by KVUE ABC. This includes city council approved funding for rapid rehousing and new Affordable Housing Bonds to help expand housing options for Austinites going through homelessness.
In the rest of the country, a decrease in homeless Veterans seems to be a trend. According to the U.S. Departments of Veteran’s Affairs, one a single night in January of 2018, there were over 37,800 Veterans experiencing homelessness nationwide. While this number is staggering, there was a 5.4 percent decrease in the estimated number of total homeless Veterans in the United States, which is a trend that hopefully continues moving forward.
As for the youth of America, the National Center on Family Homelessness reports that nearly 2.5 million children are now homeless each year in America, a historic high that represents 1 out of every 30 children in the United States.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 17 out of every 10,000 people in the United States experienced homelessness on a single night in 2018. Forbes reports that half of the total people in the United States that experience homelessness reside in either California, with 129,972 homeless individuals, New York with 91, 987 individuals, Florida with 31,030 individuals, Texas with 25,310 individuals and Washington with 22,304 individuals. New York has the lowest level of unsheltered homeless individuals, at a rate of 5%, while Los Angeles has a shocking 75% of homeless individuals living in completely unsheltered locations.
Crystal has been coming to AFTS Open Studio for more than 5 years and tries to attend once a week “so that I feel like I’m doing something - life’s not just passing me by. I have something to look forward to.”
“Life can draw you away from your real talent, and AFTS helped me rediscover an old talent. [AFTS] gave me the opportunity to rekindle that talent.”
During these times of lock down, social distancing and increasingly less human connection, we are determined to bring our artists and others experiencing homelessness an opportunity for self-expression and creative relief to combat the increasing risk of depression and isolation.