Tarrant County homeless population sees first dip in numbers since 2021

dfwnewsa | March 27, 2024 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

Tarrant County homeless population sees first dip in numbers since 2021

Lauren King, executive director of the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, presents the 2024 State of the Homeless address March 27 at Texas Wesleyan University. (Sandra Sadek | Fort Worth Report)
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Housing works. 

That’s the message emphasized by Tarrant County Homeless Coalition Executive Director Lauren King during the coalition’s State of the Homeless address on March 27. 

And the good news is that investments in housing led to a 12% decrease in Tarrant County’s homeless population, she said. 

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“When we have housing investments, we are able to reduce homelessness — our numbers go down,” King said. “We continue to show that over and over again.”

Overall, the number of people living on the streets has decreased, along with the number of veterans and families experiencing homelessness. The latest numbers from the coalition’s Point in Time Count show about 2,390 people experiencing homelessness across the county, with 81% of them in Fort Worth. 

The Point in Time Count took place Jan. 25 across Tarrant County. The average temperature that night was 46 degrees. About 400 volunteers signed up to participate. 

In 2023, the coalition and its partners focused on investing in housing as a long-term solution to homelessness. King noted an increase in funding for rental assistance and affordable housing as one of the key reasons why homeless numbers decreased this year. Rent and inflation are beginning to level out; although the numbers are still high, they are not increasing. 

Thanks to those investments, the coalition and its partners were able to house 2,504 people — more than ever before, King said. 

That is in part because of an additional 400 emergency housing vouchers received from the federal government, which supplemented the standard 350 vouchers allocated annually. Those extra vouchers helped house families at a time when family homelessness reached an all-time high. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs also poured millions of dollars into addressing veteran homelessness in 2023, significantly reducing numbers. 

“Whatever population we invest in housing in, it is going to impact the numbers,” King said. 

Moving forward, the coalition noted the priority of getting more long-term housing, such as permanent supportive housing or permanent housing, constructed to assist cost-burdened residents. That is one of the biggest gaps right now in the system, King said. 

“People who are on fixed income or on low-income and just need that long-term rental assistance,” she said. “Financially, that’s where we’ll be looking to invest.” 

The coalition reported over 2,700 people experiencing homelessness in 2023, a 22% increase from 2020. Advocates have pointed to the expiration of federal funding for housing projects, the end of the eviction moratorium and rising costs of living as the main reasons why more people — especially families — entered homelessness last year. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the coalition reported a 40% decrease in homelessness, attributed in part to a large influx of homeless prevention funding, much of which ended in 2022. 

Since 1994, the homeless coalition has been collecting this data, which is used to inform decisions about resources and services. 

Fort Worth’s homeless population numbers are lower than other major cities in Texas, such as Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. 

Tarrant County and the cities of Fort Worth and Arlington collectively dedicated over $64 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to develop and build more affordable housing in 2023. 

Over the next two years, the coalition, in partnership with the county and city of Fort Worth, will invest an estimated $50 million to create over 300 new units for people exiting homelessness, including the chronically homeless and families. Those projects include Casa de los Suenos, coming online in August and Presbyterian Night Shelter’s Journey Home.

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker said the City Council is fully committed to making sure the nonprofit organizations working with this vulnerable population receive the support and resources needed to be successful.

“This is something that every large American city is grappling with,” Parker said. “We are imperfect in Fort Worth and Tarrant County, I know that. But I want to encourage you because I firmly believe that we are leading with best practices and we really are doing the right things.”

Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at sandra.sadek@fortworthreport.org or on social media @ssadek19. 

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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