Homelessness in Austin

  • The true number of people experiencing homelessness is difficult to determine in any community because people fall into and exit from homelessness all the time. The Point in Time (PIT) Count is an annual survey of the homeless population in Austin/Travis County that provides a snapshot of the number of people experiencing homelessness on one particular night. In 2020, the PIT Count identified 2506 individuals. (Ending Community Homelessness Coalition/ECHO)
  • People experiencing homelessness in Austin/Travis County are likely to be single adults as in Texas and the United States. People experience chronic homelessness in the county at almost double the rate than the rest of the state and the United States. Unsheltered homelessness in Austin/Travis County is at comparable rates to both Texas and the United States. (2018 Report: RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE RE-DESIGN OF EMERGENCYSHELTERS IN AUSTIN from the National Alliance to End Homelessness and OrgCode Consulting, Inc.
  • Significant disparities exist in Austin when it comes to who experiences homelessness. Black/African American residents represent more than 1 in 3 people in our homeless population, but fewer than 1 in 10 people in the Austin/Travis County population. Older Austinites are also over-represented, and their share of the homeless population continues to grow. (Ending Community Homelessness Coalition/ECHO)
  • Both nationally and in Austin, the inability to afford housing is one of the leading causes of homelessness. A lack of investment in affordable housing options combined with stagnant wages leaves stable housing out of reach for many. In Austin, a minimum wage worker would need to work 125 hours a week just to afford a one-bedroom apartment. (Ending Community Homelessness Coalition/ECHO)
  • Austin’s “Action Plan to End Homelessness,” (developed by persons with lived experiences of homelessness, service providers, City of Austin and Travis County staff, elected officials, and members of the ECHO Membership Council, Housing Workgroup and Continuum of Care Workgroup) was endorsed by the City Council in 2018, identifies the models and programs that are working here locally that we must scale to city-wide levels if we want to end homelessness in our city. Over the last several years, the City Council has supported achieving effective zero veteran homelessness, the Homelessness Outreach Street Team, a redesign to a housing-focused model at the ARCH, and other initiatives, and has allocated more money to housing and social service providers working to end homelessness.
  • The per capita rate of homelessness in Austin/Travis County (less than 0.2%) has remained fairly consistent over the last decade as the area has grown. (2020 PIT Count Data)
  • Persons experiencing homelessness in Austin/Travis County often have many inter-related health, social and economic challenges that make it difficult to end homelessness on their own. 57% Have no earned income. 70% Report having no planned activities that bring them happiness or fulfillment. 51% Are unable to take care of basic needs like bathing, using a restroom, or accessing clean food and water. 70% Report their homelessness is connected to previous trauma or abuse. 36% Report currently experiencing a mental health issue that would make it difficult to live independently. 47% Report having legal stuff going on that may result in them being locked up or having to pay fines. 36% Report having spent at least one night in jail. 39% Report being a survivor of domestic violence. 13% Report that drug or alcohol use will make it difficult to maintain housing. (Community Coordinated Entry assessment data, February 2019)
  • Ending Homelessness: Reaching Functional Zero. Ending homelessness does not mean individuals and families will never again experience homelessness. Instead, it means that as a community we will have a systematic response that can address immediate needs, quickly connect people to housing, and provide services to ensure long-term stability. (March 2019 Homelessness in Austin/Travis County: Current Needs and Gaps Report)

Homelessness in Texas

  • 25,848 Texans experienced homelessness in 2019. (National Alliance to End Homelessness Texas Fact Sheet 2019 PIT Count Data)
  • Texas lacks deeply affordable housing. Our state needs tax credit projects that support deeply affordable housing for those that are 0-30% of Area Median Family Income (AMFI). The majority of tax credit projects are for 31-50% of AMFI (very low income) or 51-80% of AMFI. (Texas Homeless Network 2019 Legislative Advocacy Day Handouts)
  • Working at minimum wage $7.25/hr, Texans have to work 95 HOURS a week to afford a modest 1 bedroom rental home at Fair Market Rent. (Out of Reach 2020: Texas Report from the National Low income Housing Coalition.)


Homelessness in the United States

This data, unless otherwise noted, is from the National Alliance to End Homelessness’ State of Homelessness: 2020 Edition

  • 17 out of every 10,000 people in the United States were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2019 during HUD’s Annual Point-in-Time Count. These 567,715 people represent a cross-section of America. They are associated with every region of the country, family status, gender category, and racial/ethnic group.
  • 56% of people experiencing homelessness are in the five states that have the largest homeless counts: California, New York, Florida, Texas, and Washington. Thus, much of this national challenge is located in a small number of places, with most jurisdictions having a much smaller problem to manage. Many of the high rate states are associated with other notable housing issues. Researchers and advocates cite many of them as having the highest housing costs and highest rent burdens (housing costs as a percentage of income) in the nation.
  • Over the last five years, the number of temporary housing beds (Emergency Shelter, Safe Haven, and Transitional Housing) has decreased by 9%.
  • According to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty’s report “HOUSING NOT HANDCUFFS 2019: Ending the Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities” research shows that the criminalization of homelessness is prevalent across the country and has increased in every measured category since 2006, when the Law Center began tracking these policies nationwide. Criminalization of homelessness results in fines and fees that perpetuate the cycle of poverty. Financial obligations, such as from fines for using a tent or vehicle to shelter oneself, can prolong the amount of timethat a person will experience homelessness, and can also leave homeless people less able to pay for food, transportation, medication, or other necessities. Civil and court-imposed fines and fees can also prevent a person from being accepted into housing, or even result in their incarceration for failure to pay them.
  • A 2017 RAND Corporation analysis of the Housing for Health program in LA County concluded that the county saved about 20% by putting people with complex mental health issues in supportive housing rather than relying on law enforcement and emergency room visits.
  • Homelessness and poverty are inextricably linked. Poor people are frequently unable to pay for housing, food, childcare, health care, and education. Difficult choices must be made when limited resources cover only some of these necessities. Often it is housing, which absorbs a high proportion of income that must be dropped. If you are poor, you are essentially an illness, an accident, or a paycheck away from living on the streets. (from the National Coalition for the Homeless)

Homelessness Globally

  • 1.6 billion people worldwide live in inadequate housing conditions, with about 15 million forcefully evicted every year.
  • The United Nations has noted an alarming rise in homelessness in the last 10 years. Young people are the age group with the highest risk of becoming homeless.
  • The 58th session of the United Nation’s Commission for Social Development convened in February 2020 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Commission is the advisory body responsible for the social development pillar of global development. Based on emerging needs, the Priority Theme for 2020 is “Affordable housing and social protection systems for all to address homelessness.”
  • In both developed and developing countries, homelessness has increasingly been affecting people with diverse economic, social and cultural backgrounds. Despite the stereotypical view, homeless people in developing countries are not necessarily the poorest, and most of them, across all social groups, work, in low-skilled and low-paid work in the informal sector, with no social protection. In developed countries, they include groups over-represented among homeless in the past, such as single adult men, members of indigenous populations and people leaving institutional care, but also, increasingly, older persons, youth, families with children, and migrants. In addition, people become homeless temporarily or for prolonged periods as a result of conflicts, disasters and climate-induced displacement.