Charities conduct annual census of Houston, surrounding areas’ homeless population

In this Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, photo, dozens of homeless people live beneath an overpass for Interstate 59 in Houston. Many of the inhabitants of the tent camp braved Hurricane Harvey there and shrug off the severity of the storm, even as advocates for the homeless fear the aftermath could hit them hardest. (AP Photo/Matt Sedensky)

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This week, a group of Houston charities reportedly conducted their annual census of the city’s homeless population, aiming to record how many Houston residents are homeless, as well as some of the causes behind their condition.

Participants said the overall mission of the census is to determine the most effective ways to apply resources to reduce the homeless population, as well as developing policies to handle the issues potentially leading to homelessness.

The Coalition for the Homeless and other groups said they took counts of the homeless population living in shelters on Monday, with a plan to survey those still on the streets the next day, covering the Houston area, as well as Pasadena and Fort Bend, Harris and Montgomery Counties.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development policy requires cities to take an annual survey of their homeless populations to be eligible for federal funding.

RELATED: Homeless Man Dies During Houston’s Sub-Freezing Temperatures

According to last year’s survey, more than 3,400 chronically homeless people live on the streets in the Houston area, and, while some may find these statistics alarming, it is reportedly a decrease of more than 60 percent from the 8,500 found in the 2011 survey.

While, in recent years, volunteers said the number of homeless Houstonians is trending downward, this year’s survey may not be as promising:

Hurricane Harvey devastated thousands of homes, including those in low-income areas; residents on the brink of homelessness prior to the storm may be now living in shelters or on the streets, forced from their homes in the later months of 2017.

RELATED: Federal Judge Rules on Houston’s Homeless Encampment Clean Up Battle

In an October 2017 editorial, former Houston Mayor Annise Parker credited the cooperation of government, charities and business leaders with the steep reduction in Houston’s homeless population prior to Hurricane Harvey:

“Ultimately, the city, county, federal government, Houston Coalition for the Homeless, the private sector, philanthropic community and nearly 70 local homeless service providers all worked together to implement a single, comprehensive plan,” Parker wrote. “We have the responsibility to address homelessness as a moral, economic and quality of life imperative. We have the ability to address homelessness if we have the will to do so.”

Results of this year census are pending.

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