The homeless rate in Bucks County continues to drop, according to a new study, but at the same time the number of people seeking help “remains on the rise.”
Does the latter conclusion mean the housing crisis here just won’t disappear? Let’s take a look.
“It’s the lowest count ever recorded for the county since this count began in 2003,” said Jeffrey S. Fields, director, Bucks County Housing Services, of the annual “Point in Time” (PIT) count. “We are trending in a positive direction.”
Preliminary results were just released on the federally mandated PIT, which took place January 29 when 25 community volunteers surveyed locations (emergency shelters, transitional housing, hotels, motels, outdoors) and found 7 percent fewer homeless persons than at last year’s count. The study, reported to the federal Housing and Urban Development Department, found 333 homeless people, including 121 children.
Of the homeless identified, 46 were sleeping in Code Blue shelters for the night; 30 sleeping outside or other places not meant for human habitation, and 257 were sleeping in emergency shelters, transitional hosing units or hotels/motels paid for by charitable organizations.
Since 2017, Bucks County has seen a 30 percent decrease in the PIT count, and a 57 percent decrease in the street homeless count.
County officials attributed the decrease to a number of factors, including the addition of Street Outreach workers to “engage with and connect unsheltered homeless” persons to housing programs and other needed supports.
“We should see numbers continue tracking downward,” said Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, chair, Bucks County commissioners. “This will allow us to focus efforts on increasing affordable housing throughout the county.”
Fewer residents living on the street is commendable, but it’s not the full story. While progress continues in improving the homeless services delivery system and the PIT count, the number of families and individuals who call the Bucks County Housing Link for a housing crisis continues to grow. In 2019, the Link received 6,547 calls, a 10 percent increase over the previous year.
The shortage of affordable housing in Bucks exacerbates that trend as persons sleeping on the street or in emergency shelters have trouble finding a home to call sweet.
“There is positivity but there remains a lot of work to be done,” said Fields. “I don’t want to paint too rosy of a picture because ultimately we need the number to be zero.”