Homelessness is on the rise across Tarrant County, with 2,700 people – more than a third of whom are living on the streets – counted, according to a recent Point in Time count.
New numbers released March 29 during the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition’s State of the Homeless Address show a 22% increase countywide compared to 2020. Similarly, the number of unsheltered, veterans and families experiencing homelessness also has grown.
Over 1,000 people were living unsheltered on the streets during the count, which was conducted on Jan. 27. DFW’s average temperature that day was 47 degrees, with a low of 31.
“That is the highest number of unsheltered homeless people we’ve had during the count, and I will admit to you, the 2,700 number is higher than I thought it would be,” said Lauren King, executive director of the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition.
The majority of people experiencing homelessness were counted in Fort Worth.
While some numbers fell during the pandemic, veteran numbers rose.
Eight percent of veterans are experiencing homelessness in Tarrant County – a 27% increase from 2020.
The reason why veteran homeless numbers did not drop as much during COVID-19 isn’t easy to answer, but the issue has become a focus again, King said.
“Is Fort Worth as big as L.A. or Houston? No. However, we are a big city. And we have started to address big-city issues and really talk about them,” King said.
Among the top reasons listed as a cause for homelessness include unemployment, an inability to pay rent and physical or mental disabilities.
For renters, the end of the COVID assistance program, increases in cost of living and rising evictions have also contributed to the increase. Evictions, though, don’t always immediately lead to homelessness, King said.
Despite the spike in numbers, the coalition was able to serve about 13,600 people who were experiencing homelessness in 2022. Over 2,000 households found a new home, which included 350 households that benefited from Emergency Housing Vouchers.
Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker, who was in attendance Wednesday, applauded the public and private efforts to address homelessness. She cited two examples: the recently approved funding for a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary housing project focused on homeless families, and a project to convert an old motel into affordable housing in the Las Vegas Trail area.
“Even on the days when I find myself – we’ve all been there – frustrated and you may run across someone on the street that frustrated you… The work that each of you are doing reminds me this is really about human dignity and that we need to serve all people regardless of their circumstances,” Parker said.
On March 28, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also announced its latest annual funding allocations, with Tarrant County receiving nearly $16 million in federal dollars to support efforts to address homelessness.
The coalition and its partners are looking to increase housing investments across the area, no matter how ambitious, King said.
“People often ask, ‘In 10 years, where do you want to see our community?’ I would love for us to be a community where if someone experiences a housing crisis, we can get them rehoused within 30 days,” King said.
Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter at @ssadek19.
At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.