The United Way of the Midlands has released a report on homelessness that agency officials are hoping will help identify gaps in housing and services for the region’s homeless population.
The report, prepared on behalf of the Midlands Area Consortium for the Homeless, outlines several trends the agency believes service providers and the public should know about, particularly an increase in the number of people being served.
The 15-page Regional Profile of Homelessness covers the 14-county area served by MACH and touches on a wide range of growth categories related to the homeless – including the increased rate among seniors, poverty and the percentage of individuals with disabilities in homeless shelters. However, the report does not outline specific plans for addressing many of those issues.
“We haven’t gotten the (full) strategy yet because we just started working on them,” said Anita Floyd, the United Way’s senior vice president of community impact.
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Floyd added, however, that creating greater collaboration among area service providers and securing more affordable housing options for the homeless are among the highest priorities.
The report showed that the number of people served in the region had increased nearly three-fold the past three years. Nearly 7,000 people were served in 2013-14 by providers in the MACH system, compared with 2,652 in 2010.
The report said greater capacity has allowed providers to increase their services, but notes a continued need for these services.
“We believe that the data indicate that programs like Transitions (in downtown Columbia) are filling a gap in the demand for services and housing,” Floyd said. “However, there is still critical work to be done in increasing our available stock of affordable housing.”
Of the 1,570 people identified in the agency’s most recent Point-in-Time homeless count in January, 1,014, or 65 percent, were in Richland County. Lexington County was second with 174 people, while York was third with 137.
The count seeks to identify the number of homeless people, both in and out of shelters, on a given night.
Floyd said the report is offered as the first in a series intended to help the community develop a more complete understanding of the experience of homelessness among Midlands residents.
She said follow-up reports in the series will offer community cost analysis data and explore the emerging issue of homelessness among youths.
A full copy of the report can be viewed at uway.org.