October 28, 2016

Tomica’s story: Putting a human face to homeless data

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Tomica speaking at panel discussion

Recently, I attended a panel discussion about the value of data in the effort to end homelessness.  While all the policy wonks gathered to digest the data, one young lady brought the data to life, and reminded me that all the numbers represent real people. Homeless since she was 11, the now 23-year old woman named Tomica, told her story of her path to find a permanent home.

While resting in a downtown park during the day, at night Tomica went to Community Youth Services, an overnight shelter for young people in Tacoma, Washington to get help and eventually find a place to call home. She called the shelter, which receives funding from the City of Tacoma, a safe place to sleep at night.

HUD just released important data as the second part of its annual homeless estimate. The report shows the scale of homelessness among those in our nation’s sheltering system, including a new focus on the state of homelessness among families and young people.

We rely on the data to help determine homeless funding for local governments and how to better serve individuals experiencing homelessness.   Across the nation, communities implement ways to quickly and effectively house people and their families experiencing homelessness in a coordinated way. They work together across agencies (federal and local) and create partnerships toward achieving the national goal of ending homelessness.

What does HUD’s 2015 annual estimate find?

  • The number of people experiencing sheltered homelessness as part of a family declined 3 percent between 2014 and 2015, following an increase between 2013 and 2014.
  • The number of veterans experiencing sheltered homelessness dropped 11 percent (16,788 fewer veterans) between 2009 and 2015.
  • 347,776 people lived in permanent supportive housing (PSH) during 2015. The share of people living in PSH who are individuals has been increasing over time.
  • While 25 percent of those experiencing sheltered homelessness are under 30, a larger number of those are between 18 to 24 than 25 to 30.

While HUD continues to make progress towards ending veteran and chronic homelessness, the increased attention on youth homelessness will help HUD understand better ways to count them, and the need for age-appropriate interventions to continue to help young people like Tomica, and end youth homelessness as we know it.


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