2021 Homeless Count in the City of Alexandria Reveals Reductions During Pandemic and Increased Inequity
A DCHS CONNECT FEATURE
May 28, 2021--On January 27, the DCHS Office of Community Services and its City and community partners in the Continuum of Care (CoC) conducted the 2021 Point in Time (PIT) Count of people experiencing homelessness across the city.
The annual enumeration, which is carried out by cities across the region, provides a one-night unduplicated snapshot of homelessness and helps identify and assess unmet needs and gaps in services to inform funding and other planning decisions as well as evaluate progress made in preventing and ending homelessness.
In the City of Alexandria, the Count identified 106 people who were homeless, meaning they were unsheltered or in a temporary shelter that they accepted from homeless services providers. This is a 49% decrease in the total homeless number from the 2020 PIT Count, which identified 207 individuals. Included within this group of 106 were families, which also decreased in number and size.
Residents of the emergency shelter, as with previous years, comprised most of the people in the PIT Count. Also noted was that reducing shelter capacity and bed availability, in response to the social distancing mandate, appeared to have no significant effect on the number served in shelter, as there were no overflows reported, even with the capacity reduction.
CoC staff deduce that this reduction in homelessness is largely due to the moratorium on evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is indicative of the importance of housing retention and eviction prevention as a protection against homelessness and its numerous associated costs and challenges, such as impacts to physical health, mental health and ability to maintain employment for the individuals affected. Data have shown that individuals who never enter a shelter are more likely to maintain permanent housing. Once entering a shelter, and the longer one stays, the less likely they are to obtain permanent housing. Alexandria’s Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness is looking at ways to prioritize prevention measures across the city in the future and is collaborating with the multi-agency Eviction Prevention Task Force. See a list of eviction prevention programs and resources from the City at alexandriava.gov/Housing.
Another major issue that continues to plague systems nationally is racial inequity. While there was a 49% decrease in homelessness in the city this year, there was a 13% increase in the number of Black individuals who were homeless, up to 78% following the pandemic from 65% in 2020. While the inequity does not come as a surprise considering the national impacts of systemic racism, CoC staff note that the percent of increase is alarming and paints a picture of the housing inequity that the City of Alexandria must keep working to address. This gathering of data is one of the first steps in addressing inequities while working to identify root causes of the disparities and changes to reverse them.
One positive result of the pandemic has been an increase in housing funds for residents impacted by poverty and homelessness. Using funds from the COVID Homelessness Emergency Relief Program (CHERP), the CoC was able to provide clients with Rapid Re-housing and Permanent Supportive Housing solutions, resulting in a 13% decrease in chronic homelessness, a 27% decrease in unsheltered homelessness, and a 62% decrease in winter shelter utilization. With no new policy or procedural changes that would contribute to this large decrease in homelessness in 2021, CoC staff believe that emergency funding along with the hard work of CoC partners, have had at least a temporary positive impact on housing instability and homelessness in the City of Alexandria.
Learn more about Homeless Services in the City of Alexandria including what you can do if you encounter a person experiencing homelessness.