20. Homeless

Indicator: Children Experiencing Homelessness, as identified in the annual Point-in-Time Count

Progress: In the most recent Point-in-Time Count of people experiencing homelessness, carried out in 2020, 476 children and youth under 24 were identified, representing 19% of the total population of people experiencing homelessness

Significance of Indicator: Being homeless endangers the physical health, social and emotional well-being, academic performance, and the very life of children. The consequences to society are enormous. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness “Homeless youth and young adults are at pronounced risk for physical abuse, sexual exploitation, mental health disabilities, chemical or alcohol dependency, and death.”

what the data tell us

Each January, volunteers fan out across Travis County to count the number of people experiencing homelessness on a particular night, including people residing in emergency shelters and transitional housing, as well as those ‘living in a place not designed or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for humans,” according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. During the 2015 ‘Point-in-Time’ Count, there were 412 children under 18 and 140 youth between ages 18 and 24 identified as experiencing homelessness. Nearly all of the children under 18 and 62% of youth 18-24 counted that night were ‘sheltered’ or staying in an emergency shelter or transitional housing, although 55 children and youth were unsheltered. Overall, children and youth made up 29% of the population experiencing homelessness during the Point-in-Time count, including 8% of the unsheltered population and 41% of the sheltered population.

Definition: Age breakdown of people who were identified and counted as homeless in the Austin/Travis County Annual Point-in-Time Count, by sheltered status

Data Source: Ending Community Homelessness Coalition

Data Considerations: Annual point-in-time counts reflect only the number of people who are identified by volunteers as being homeless on a given day in January each year. In 2010, postponement of the annual point-in-time count due to weather issues lowered the number of participating volunteers and may have affected the number of homeless persons who were identified and counted. Count numbers beginning in 2011 include people identified through the following programs that had not previously reported numbers for the point-in-time count: Grant/Per Diem Transitional Housing Program, Healthcare for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) Residential Treatment at McCabe Center, and a HCHV Residential Treatment program called A New Entry. Due to low temperatures, Cold Weather Shelters were open during the 2014 Point-in-Time Count, somewhat artificially raising the number of sheltered individuals. After the January PIT count in 2020, due to the challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the PIT count was not carried out in 2021 or 2022.

The story behind the indicator

Over the last five years, the total number of people experiencing homelessness in the Austin-Travis County area has declined. Since 2016, the number of people identified as experiencing homelessness has increased by 17%, to 2,506 in 2020. From 2017 to 2020 alone, the number of individuals counted increased by 23%. The number of people experiencing homelessness is determined through the annual Point-in-Time Count. Each year, as mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, volunteers fan out across the county to identify people experiencing homelessness.

During the 2020 Point-in-Time Count, 1,574 total people were considered ‘unsheltered’ or sleeping in an area not fit for human habitation. This represents about 63% of people considered homeless. The remaining 37% of people experiencing homelessness had a temporary place to stay, such as an emergency shelter, on the night local volunteers conducted the count. The PIT may not paint a full picture of the number of people in our community at risk for homelessness. In calendar year 2020, ECHO reported that 12,957 people received services at partner organizations, including permanent supportive housing and homelessness prevention services.

For more information on the overall population experiencing homelessness, see the Community Advancement Network’s Dashboard indicator on homelessness.

some local efforts to improve this indicator

  • The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) acts as the lead planning organization among area agencies working to put an end to homelessness in our community. ECHO coordinates the application process for, and management of, homeless services funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In Fiscal Year 2014, this totaled $5.6 million. In 2014, ECHO began implementing Coordinated Assessment, a key component of their framework for housing stability. This process standardizes intake and client assessment among multiple partners. Participating organizations utilize specialized staff to assess clients’ needs using a common assessment. Provider staff then refer clients to the agency that can best meet their needs.

Plans, Data, and Reports

  • To address homelessness in Austin, ECHO has developed a Framework for Housing Stability. Strategies for implementing the framework include providing multiple, but limited, points of entry; embracing diversion strategies, including short-term financial assistance and landlord mediation; devoting specialized staff for assessment, case management, and housing; and data sharing among partner organizations.
Click this graph to download an excel spreadsheet with expanded information

Definition: The number of students in the Austin Independent School District who were identified and counted as homeless by Project Help

Data Source: Project Help

Data Considerations: While Project Help works to serve homeless students within Austin ISD, identifying students who are experiencing homelessness is not so simple. If a student is not homeless at the time of enrollment and becomes homeless at some point during the school year, there is a chance that they would not be identified by the school district as being homeless.

2018 © Ready by 21 Austin

Ready by 21 (RB21) and the RB21 logo are registered trademarks of the Forum for Youth Investment. The Central Texas RB21 Coalition is a member of the Forum’s RB21 Learning Network. The Central Texas RB21 online dashboard is currently sponsored by Workforce Solutions — Capital Area Workforce Board, the Community Advancement Network (CAN) and the City of Austin, with content and data contributions from over 20 local youth-serving coalitions.

disproportionately impacted

The American Psychological Association states there are numerous risk factors, which in combination with each other, raise the probability of a student dropping out of high school:

  • Individual Risk Factors (e.g. truancy, poor school attitude, etc.)
  • Family Risk Factors (e.g. low-income, lack of parental involvement, etc.)
  • School Risk Factors (e.g. negative school climate, low expectations, etc.)
  • Community Risk Factors (e.g. high crime, lack of community support for schools, etc.)

According to the E3 Alliance, students who were retained in 9th grade, students who were frequently absent, and students who moved or changed schools frequently were less likely to graduate in four years than other students.