Officials with the Missouri Housing Development Commission claim Missouri’s homeless population is actually higher than recent Housing and Urban Development figures might indicate.
HUD requires states to conduct annual Point-In-Time estimates of their homeless populations – Missouri conducts these estimates twice annually. The most recent statistics, from the January survey, estimate Missouri’s homeless population for 2008 at 7,687 – up from 6,247 in 2007 – an increase of 23.05 percent. But it is still only 0.13 percent of the state’s population of just under six million.
Heather Bradley-Geary, Trust Fund and Community Initiatives Manager for the Missouri Housing Development Commission, which works with HUD on these statistics, says that while the numbers include the chronically homeless they do not include people who have lost their jobs and their homes and are forced to move in with their families or friends.
"HUD does not let us define ‘homeless’ as somebody that’s doubled up or couch-surfing," said Bradley-Geary in an interview with the Missourinet. "So, lots of times in rural communities we see families that stay with friends, or whatever the case may be, and then they go to the next friends the next night. We’re not able to count them as homeless."
She says changing the methodology for counting the homeless would actually put the number of people without homes much higher.
"Basically, our best guesstimate is every night in the state of Missouri roughly 24,000 people are homeless," said Bradley-Geary. "That does include those people that are either sheltered or living with family or whatever the case may be."
We could soon see HUD’s homeless numbers rise as a result of the way in which the data are accumulated.
"Right now, HUD is recognizing that the largest growing population of homelessness is families," said Bradley-Geary. "So, recently with the passage of the Hearth Act, they’re changing the definition of what homelessness looks like, and families are actually going to be able to be considered chronically homeless."
The next Point-In-Time estimate will be taken later this month.
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