Thursday, April 23, 2009

Homeless Count Tells Only Part of the Story

The Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance's Annual Point in Time Homeless Count was released yesterday. Every year, on one particular night, an attempt is made to count all homeless persons living on the street, in shelters or transitional living facilities. The good news is, the overall number of homeless persons is down. The bad news is that the number of families, women, and children who are homeless is way up.

What is misleading about the count as it pertains to unaccompanied teens is the low number located that night. Grantors and funders who use this count to ascertain the extent of a problem will look at that number and ask, "What's all the fuss about these homeless teens? There aren't that many!"

The reality is, however, that most teens in Dallas who have run away or who are homeless "sofa surf", or move from place to place. They are not going to show up in any "one night" homeless count. But they are still out there.

How do I know this? Because the programs at Promise House that provide emergency and transitional housing to teens always have waiting lists. We can house about 75 teens at a time, and all of our transitional housing programs for homeless teens have at least a 3 month waiting list. These are kids who are unhinged from any support, who are finding a new place to stay every night, who have their own kids with them.

How else do I know this? Because every night we have at least one teen walk in from off the street, and most nights we have two or three. They are not going to be in a homeless count--they are hiding out, trying to find someone to support them--often ending up being exploited in their search.

My fear is that this count will be one more reason to continue to ignore the plight of these teens. Because they are invisible (literally), desperately needed funding to help them will continue to be funneled to the chronically homeless (only 10% of the homeless population) and now to families and children (who certainly deserve the help).

The teens and young people who are being ignored today will be the chronically homeless in 5-10 years. Why can't people get that???? Help them today and we go a long way toward solving the blight of homelessness.
It's called prevention. We could use much more than an ounce of that right about now.


  1. Hey Mom - I'm glad you restarted this blog. Keep writing about all of these issues - this information needs to get out there!

  2. Way to go Harriet. I'll link to yours. JN