The results of an annual survey conducted in January show that the homeless population in Longview has been stable since 2017, while it has risen, then declined in a six-county region that includes the city over the past five years.
The Point-in-Time survey showed the homeless population at 230 in Longview in January, the same as 2017 and up from 226 in 2018.
Broken down, it shows the number of homeless children declined from 27 in 2017 and 14 in 2018 to six in 2019, while the number of homeless veterans dropped from 20 in 2017 and 14 in 2018 to 12 this year.
The Longview-specific numbers go back to only 2017, according to Kyra Henderson, data coordinator at the Texas Homeless Network, which coordinated the survey.
A broader survey that covers Longview and all of Gregg, Upshur, Harrison, Panola, Rusk and Marion counties shows a homeless population at 293 in 2015, 397 in 2016, 480 in 2017, 262 in 2018 and 242 this year.
The 2019 results show 168 people identifying themselves as white, and 34 people designated as “chronically” homeless.
The Texas Homeless Network defines chronically homeless as someone with a disability and has been homeless for a year or longer or someone with a disability and has had at least three homeless episodes over the past three years.
The Texas Homeless Network in Austin shares the data to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Henderson said.
“It can be used to increase community awareness, advocate with elected officials and to help to obtain funding,” Henderson said in a statement. “Each community makes the determination of how they want to use their PIT data.”
The 2019 survey took place regionally Jan. 24 at homeless shelters, parks, outdoor encampments and in cars, Henderson said.
Henderson acknowledged the survey results do not present a comprehensive report on homelessness, adding, “People are not required to answer the information.”
That was the whole point with a survey named Point-in-Time, according to Laura Hill, Longview’s community services director. She said she does not know whether homeless people who live in Longview or were simply passing through constitute the majority of the 230 people counted in January.
She mentioned the city’s commitment to tackling the longstanding homeless problem, starting with Mayor Andy Mack creating a task force in March 2017 and assigning two police officers in 2018 to do outreach with the homeless population.
While acknowledging veterans are a small minority of homeless people counted, Hill said they enjoy the most opportunities for services of the homeless population.
Hill said the Longview Housing Authority within the past three years has budgeted for vouchers to help 39 veterans pay for rent. She said all 39 vouchers have been allocated.
She said HUD and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are collaborating on serving homeless veterans.
VA staff participated in the homeless population count in January, and the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport and Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Longview work with city staff, according to Shannon Arledge, public affairs officer at Overton Brooks.
He said in a statement that the VA has a range of programs to prevent and end homelessness among veterans, including health care, housing, job training and education.
In addition to the public sector, nonprofit groups have a role to play in response to the survey results, according to Hill.
Hollie Bruce, executive director of Newgate Mission at 207 S. Mobberly Ave. in Longview, did not directly respond to questions about the Point-In-Time survey.
However, she said in an email that Newgate continues to provide services for homeless and low-income people. Services include providing meals, worship, showers and clothing, medical consultation.
“Newgate is carefully balancing provision of services to the homeless and the lowest-income members of our community,” Bruce wrote. “As it is crucial to assist the homeless in becoming housed, it is also vital that we assist those who do have homes in staying housed. Preventing homelessness is every bit as important as moving people out of it. The goal has to remain twofold.”
One positive sign for dealing with the long-term homelessness problem is improved communications and better working relations among city staff and area agencies, Hill said.
“It’s a complicated issue,” Hill said, referring to homelessness. “There is no place that is doing it all. It takes all of us. We are all part of the puzzle. We are going to keep plugging away. It is an issue that is not going to go away, and we need our community’s support.”
To view the Point-in-Time survey results, go to tinyurl.com/pit-longview .