The Community Shelter Board and its volunteers conducted Columbus and Franklin County's annual point-in-time count of the area's homeless population.
CSB spokesperson Sara Loken says she expects the number to be close to or higher than last year's count.
“And it’s interesting, you know, that the number of people that we counted last year this day was 1,807, and that was an increase over the number of people that we had counted in 2017 – at 1,691. But the largest increase was seen among people that we counted in shelter. And much of that increase was due to families staying in shelter twice as long as usual, because of the affordable housing crisis. It’s taking longer than ever before for families to find safe, affordable housing. And that is contributing to longer shelter stays.”
Loken says the CSB is excited about the focus on addressing the region's 54,000-unit affordable housing shortage, including a bond package Columbus will put before voters in May that dedicates $50 million to alleviate the gap. Single-day counts take place across the country in late January to comply with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's funding requirements. Loken says the counts are still an important part of the process.
“It’s the best way I think that they can get ahold of what things are looking like in communities all across the country, and make the best decisions that they can about allocating resources where they see the most need, and also where they see the most progress and traction being made to address homelessness in individual communities. For us locally, it’s one importanrt way that we can take a pulse and a temperature on who is homeless right now, that we’ve not yet connected with. It’s an opportunity to immediately connect people to services, to find out what their barriers are. And then it’s one data point that we look at in a much larger picture of all the data analysis and trend-monitoring that we do all year long.”
CSB staff will spend the next couple months verifying the data and eliminating any duplication in the numbers before coming up with a firm count in April.