Annual Count Reveals Homelessness Declines Slightly in Champaign County

An empty park bench in the Fall

A total of 137 individuals were identified as homeless in Champaign County during the most recent Point-in-Time (PIT) count, down 11 from the 148 individuals identified through the count in 2021. The count was conducted by the Continuum of Services Providers to the Homeless (CSPH) on January 27, 2022, with more than 30 volunteers split into teams to search Champaign County for people experiencing homelessness.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires the PIT count annually in late January in order to provide a snapshot of the state of homelessness throughout the country. Congress then utilizes the data collected from the count to disseminate funds for homeless services. HUD sets the counts for winter to account for seasonal and overflow beds, as well as to facilitate deduplication between the sheltered and unsheltered counts. HUD does not fund the coordination of counts outside of the last 10 days of January.

As was the case in 2021, only two individuals were identified as experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Champaign County; the individuals identified were not the same as in last year’s count. The 137 total individuals were identified from 98 households. Of those individuals, 111 were sheltered in emergency shelters and 24 in transitional housing; 16 of these 111were identified as chronically homeless. There were 34 children identified in the count, representing 19 households with at least one adult with minor children. That means the other 79 households were composed of all adults.

With the assistance of community volunteers, CSPH, a consortium of agencies and governmental units committed to ending homelessness in Champaign County, conducted the count blitz-style concurrent to counts of people in emergency shelters to reduce duplication. Working in teams, the volunteers searched the community for individuals and families experiencing homelessness and gathered information about their housing situations. PIT focuses on, but is not exclusive to, known locations of people experiencing homelessness as identified by people experiencing homelessness, CSPH partners, law enforcements, and others.

The count included people both sheltered (residing in emergency shelters or transitional housing for individuals experiencing homelessness) and unsheltered (living in spaces not meant for human habitation, such as cars or on the street).

“The data collected during the annual Point in Time and Housing Inventory Count is a crucial tool for local agencies working to end homelessness in Champaign County,” says CSPH Chair Breaden Belcher. “This data helps the CSPH as a whole plan and coordinate effectively, and ensures that the needs of the most vulnerable in our community are taken into account.”

“The Point-in-Time is an important but limited data source – it helps us understand what homelessness looks like on one night in winter,” says CSPH Coordinator Thomas Bates. “The Continuum uses this data, as well as year-round data from our Homeless Management Information System, to make recommendations and decisions.”

Concurrent to the Point-in-Time count, the Continuum also counted housing for people experiencing homelessness through the Housing Inventory Count (HIC), which tracks housing projects that are exclusive to people experiencing homelessness, as defined by HUD. HIC identified a reduction in emergency shelter beds, in particular those serving the most vulnerable individuals, creating a gap. CSPH also continues seeing insufficient Rapid Rehousing and Permanent Supportive Housing beds.

“Permanent housing is the only thing that ends homelessness,” stresses Bates. “Without Rapid Rehousing and Permanent Supportive Housing beds, we can’t move people on from emergency shelters. A well-oiled permanent housing project is the key to making meaningful progress in ending homelessness, not just emergency shelter inventory.”

Completed annually, these counts help local homeless service providers track progress towards ending homelessness in our community by measuring the effectiveness of existing services and identifying additional approaches for shelter and housing options.

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