A herd of volunteers across the country spend one winter night each year searching for homeless people.
Here are 5 things to know about what they found in 2019 in Connecticut, according to a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
1. Homelessness is down
The homeless population has steadily declined. There are 1,450 fewer homeless people identified in 2019 than 2007 – a 32% decline. There was a one-year increase between 2017 and 2018 because of the influx of Puerto Ricans moving to the state after Hurricane Maria hit the island.
Richard Cho, the chief executive director of Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, said that much more work remains.
“We are seeing modest declines. It’s not huge,” he said. “We are nowhere at scale. If we had more resources we would be seeing steeper declines.”
2. Most sleep in emergency shelters
Most of the homeless people counted by volunteers are living in short-term emergency shelters — about 70% in 2019.
The decline in the overall number of homeless residents has been matched by a dwindling number of people lingering in emergency shelters. However, the number living in long-term shelters has dropped much faster.
Cho said the decline in the number of people living in shelters is encouraging because it means they are getting the housing they need to avoid shelters. The number of beds in shelters has remained constant over the years, he said.
Because it is much harder to find those who are homeless and are so-called “couch surfing” and living temporarily with friends or family, these tallies don’t account for the whole spectrum of those experiencing homelessness.
3. There are homeless children, lots of them.
Volunteers counted 577 homeless children in Connecticut in 2019. While nearly all the homeless children identified were living on the streets or in shelters with their families, some were alone.
Nine, to be exact.
4. Nearly every homeless veteran is off the streets.
The number of homeless veterans has been halved since 2011. And among the 195 homeless veterans who remain, nearly all of them are sheltered.
5. Number of homeless declining faster than most states
The number of people identified as homeless since 2007 has declined faster in Connecticut than 33 other states. The state has also received official recognition from the federal government for ending veteran homelessness, meaning that when veterans become homeless they are being quickly identified and provided housing opportunities.
However, Cho said, “We are far from ending homelessness.”
About 3,000 people live in shelters on any given day.