Homeless numbers see little change - Albuquerque Journal

Homeless numbers see little change

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Despite the COVID pandemic, the picture of homelessness in Albuquerque has not changed much.

According to the 2021 annual Point-In-Time, or PIT count, released to the Journal on Tuesday, there were 1,567 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people living in Albuquerque, a slight increase over the 2019 count of 1,524 homeless.

The Point-in-Time count is a nationwide count of individuals and families experiencing homelessness within a community on a given night. The federal department of Housing and Urban Development requires the count be conducted by communities that accept federal funds for homelessness programs.

In even numbered years, sheltered homeless are surveyed; in odd numbered years, both sheltered and unsheltered homeless are surveyed.

Specifically among Albuquerque’s unsheltered homeless, there was a decrease from 567 people in 2019, to 413 in the 2021 count.

“We know that a lot of people are struggling economically under COVID, but the fact that we didn’t see a huge spike in our homeless numbers is likely because the state eviction moratorium and the CDC moratorium are working,” said Lisa Huval, deputy director of Housing and Homelessness for the city. “They’re helping keep people housed, even if they’re struggling to pay the rent right now because of COVID.”

In addition, she said, the city has been investing in supportive housing programs, the funding for which has increased by 45% since FY 2018. “So we’re seeing the results of that as well,” she said.

The combined PIT numbers for the areas of New Mexico outside of Albuquerque, what is defined in the report as the BOS, or “balance of state,” is a bit more dramatic. The 2021 BOS PIT count shows 1,180 sheltered and unsheltered homeless, a 31% decrease from the 1,717 counted in 2019.

That, too, could be attributed to COVID and the difficulty of getting more volunteers out to conduct the count, Huval said, as well as reluctance of homeless people to interact with others and take the survey.

This year, the survey asked where people stayed the night of Jan. 25. The count, coordinated by New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness, lasted from Jan. 26 to Feb. 1.

Only those homeless people who can be located and who agree to participate in the survey are counted. That means the PIT count is a snapshot of homeless people taken on one winter night, and it is understood from the onset that it will be an undercount, Huval said.

Operators of programs that provide services to Albuquerque’s homeless say the actual number of homeless is far greater than indicated in the PIT count. The Albuquerque Public Schools says the number of homeless children enrolled in district schools, meaning kids from families that have no permanent address, has consistently been more than 3,000.

HUD defines sheltered homeless as residing in an emergency shelter, motel paid through a provider or in a transitional housing program. It does not include people who are doubled up with family or friends or “couch surfing.”

Unsheltered homeless are those sleeping in places not meant for human habitation, such as streets, parks, alleys, underpasses, abandoned buildings, campgrounds and similar environments.

According to the PIT count, 42% of Albuquerque’s unsheltered were defined as chronically homeless, meaning they had been continuously homeless for at least a year and had a disabling condition; 21% said they were homeless due to COVID; 37% were experiencing homelessness for the first time; and 12% were homeless due to domestic violence.

In Albuquerque, 30.19% of the homeless self-reported as having a serious mental illness, and 25.5% self reported as substance abusers. In the rest of the state, 37.92% of the homeless self-reported a serious mental illness, while 63.3% self reported as substance abusers.

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