Lincoln sees significant drop in number of homeless

Lincoln has seen a continued decline in the number of homeless over the past six years.

In 2012, the number of homeless in Lincoln was creeping closer and closer to 1,000 people. Now, after steadily decreasing for six years, that number has been cut in half, according to a recent report.

The Lincoln Continuum of Care 2018 Point-in-Time Count, which was submitted earlier this week, calculated 451 homeless individuals within the city limits, a 54 percent drop from the 2012 count that totaled 981.

“I would guess that based on what I’ve seen in previous years, that number is going to put Lincoln at the top of cities its size in terms of trying to solve the homeless problem,” said Jeff Chambers, who is the chair of the planning and data committee for the Lincoln Homeless Coalition.

A comparison between the first available report in 2007 and now still shows a decrease of 33 percent.

The decrease in homeless people has been a nationwide trend for the past decade. Since 2007, eight of the next 10 point-in-time estimates for the entire U.S. showed an overall decrease, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The total estimated count dropped 14 percent from 2007 to 2017.

Ever since Lincoln’s homeless count hit its highest point in 2012, the numbers have been on a steep decent, much larger than the national decrease in smaller cities across the U.S.

From 2013 to 2017, the total count for smaller cities decreased by just fewer than 19 percent. During that same span, Lincoln’s count dropped by 37 percent, double that of the national trend for smaller cities.

A 26 percent decrease from 2017 to 2018 alone shows Lincoln has no signs of stopping its effort to help those in need any time soon.

Those close to the situation in Nebraska’s capital city point to a number of factors when it comes to the continued decrease in the numbers of homeless.

Lincoln Homeless Coalition Chair Christina Lloyd credited much of the success to the City of Lincoln’s coordinated entry system, which organizes and provides housing services for people experiencing homelessness.

“Rather than agencies maintaining their own wait list, we were able to put all those people onto one list,” Lloyd said. “Then, as soon as a housing provider had an opening, they were able to pull that person off and house them immediately.”

Putting all the names of homeless individuals onto one list prevents them from having to go to multiple agencies to find housing options and makes the process easier to maintain.

The coalition also provides many services and support resources that help those individuals who are already homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless.

Any community that receives federal dollars for homeless services is required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to conduct a homeless point-in-time count at least once every year. That count must be performed on a single day in the last 10 days of January.

The process involves using the Homeless Management Information System, a confidential database of homeless populations, as well as volunteers identifying individuals not in a sheltered location, Chambers said.

“We’re going to all the places that we know people might be staying and counting them,” he said.

The primary places where they find unsheltered homeless peoples are downtown and the West O Street areas, as well as parks throughout Lincoln, he said.

Many of those in the emergency shelters on any night are in People’s City Mission, or other transitional housing programs at scattered sights.

The ultimate goal for the members of the coalition is to end homelessness. Although they know that won’t likely happen, they’re pleased with the progress made.

“We’re going to continue to have a homeless problem,” Chambers said. “We’re never going to completely eliminate people from being homeless, but getting (that number) down to 451 persons on the one night is a significant achievement.”

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