Guest post by Lauren King, Executive Director – Tarrant County Homeless Coalition
If I were to poll a group of my neighbors on the state of homelessness in our community today, many would say homelessness is getting worse – the eviction moratorium ended months ago in Texas, there are worker shortages, rents are long overdue and the economy has not recovered. While all of this is true, the impacts of these factors on homelessness are not what my neighbors and you, might assume. Here’s the good news- in Tarrant County, homelessness is down and has been decreasing since before the pandemic. In fact, since 2018, we have reduced the number of households experiencing homelessness each month from approximately 2300 to about 1200, that’s nearly half.
I’ve spent my whole life in this community and my whole career in local non-profits. Here’s the thing about homelessness- we will never HUD (Housing and Urban Development) our way out of homelessness. EVER. The government alone cannot fix homelessness for our community or any other community. While HUD is a huge investor in our response, no matter the size of the investment they cannot and will not fix homelessness for us. Ultimately this is a local response and I would argue, we prefer it that way.
Similarly, we will never nonprofit our way out of homelessness. Giving people a second chance at housing, and at life, takes a lot. It takes public and private investment; it takes political will to try new things and commit to a strategy; it takes being supportive of neighborhoods and understanding what is meaningful to them; it takes nonprofits interested in more than sustaining their existence; it takes recognition that solving homelessness benefits every aspect of our community – economic development, public health, transit, workforce readiness, education, and neighborhood vitality.
Homelessness is the failure of every other system someone has interacted with during their lifetime. Whether it’s the family system, the education system, the church system, the healthcare system, the criminal justice system- whatever it may be, the systems we’ve put in place have failed these human beings and end up with us in the homeless services system. We’re the last stop for many in our community. Is significantly reducing homelessness a heavy lift? Definitely. But I need you to understand just how close we are to being a community with very little homelessness. Consider the numbers:
Tarrant County is the 15th largest county in the United States; we have the 57th largest homeless population
At any given time .05% of our population is experiencing homelessness or 257th in the county.
In September 2021, there were approximately 1200 households that experienced homelessness. Of those, 600 have housing assistance and actively trying to find somewhere to live. Meaning there are roughly only 600 households needing services.
The population experiencing homelessness has remained stable for the past five years, except for 2020, when it dropped by over 30%
Here’s how you can help - give to our Tarrant County Homeless Coalition nonprofit partners, volunteer to help people find places to live, learn about homelessness, give people a second chance, support our partners when they want to build homes-remember local partners are not out of state investors, they’re investing in long-term housing solutions for our community.
The solution to being homeless is a home. It’s not mental health care, not substance abuse treatment, not a better-paying job. It’s a place to call home. The tireless people and organizations who work on this issue live here with you- we are your neighbors, often your friends and want our community to be a great place to live for everyone who calls Tarrant County home.
Lauren King is the Executive Director at Tarrant County Homeless Coalition and has been with the organization for nearly five years. She is a social worker who bleeds purple, but also has a touch of burnt orange in her too. Lauren grew up in Fort Worth and is committed to making the community she loves so much a better place for all. For nearly 15 years, Lauren has dedicated her career to serving in agencies serving those impacted by homelessness and poverty. From her start as an intern at Arlington Life Shelter to fundraising for SafeHaven and Catholic Charities, and successfully directing homeless street outreach, rapid rehousing, homeless prevention, and family stability programs, she has always been and remains committed to providing service to those most in need. With the Homeless Coalition she is committed to realizing the shared community vision of a vibrant community where everyone has a place to call home.
The Tarrant County Homeless Coalition leads the community solution to homelessness in greater Tarrant and Parker counties by serving as a catalyst for community transformation. The Homeless Coalition partners with more than 40 organizations that provide services to those at risk or experiencing homelessness. For more information, visit our website: www.ahomewithhope.org.