New Data on Unsheltered Homeless in Erie County | News
The Homeless Alliance of WNY in partnership with the WNY Coalition for the Homeless conducted a survey of the unsheltered homeless in Erie County on October 14th and 15th. Over 25 trained outreach workers and Homeless Alliance staff conducted the surveys in known homeless camps throughout the city, soup kitchens, and Harbor House.
135 people were found to be living in conditions not meant for human habitation. Because of weather conditions during the survey time period, it is estimated that there is a minimum of another 100 people who were not counted. Our estimate is that there are at least 250 people living in conditions not meant for human habitation.
The survey is being conducted as part of a larger effort to update the Buffalo/Erie County Plan to End Homelessness. This effort began with the release of statistics from last year that showed 8,500 people experiencing homelessness with approximately 1,500 being homeless on any given night. 60% of the people were homeless for the first time which highlights the extreme poverty in Buffalo and Erie County. The analysis of statistics will serve as the basis for the plan update that is targeted for completion in mid-2012.
Of those surveyed it was found that 101 or 75% are men, 28 are female or 21%. Another 6 people were counted but no survey information was available.
The surveyed homeless living situations are listed in Table 1.
The “other” category represents those who spent a part of their evening at the Harbor House drop-in center on Genesee and Oak.
73 or 61% of the unsheltered homeless are classified as Chronically Homeless- those with a disabling condition that have been continuously homeless for a year or more or have been homeless four or more times in 3 years.
The age of those living on the street can be seen on Chart 1.
This chart shows that no one is truly “living” on the streets, they are simply “dying” a slow death. These statistics mirror national statistics that show the average person on the streets has a life expectancy of 62 years. Erie County statistics show approximately 50 “unclaimed” bodies are buried at taxpayer expense each year, many of them homeless.
Studies conducted in 50 cities throughout the country have shown that it is more cost effective to place the long term homeless in Supportive Housing than it is to let them die on the streets. A majority of the cost savings are realized through decreased medical payments through Medicaid. Supportive Housing can be provided in a more cost effective manner than the $1,500-$2,000 average cost of a night in a hospital or the $125 per night while incarcerated. The Buffalo Arson Squad also investigates 10-15 fires per year that occur because of people trying to stay warm in abandoned houses.
Based upon this survey and previous data analysis, that shows 102 people have 3 or more emergency shelter stays last year, it is recommended that Erie County needs a minimum of 150-200 supportive housing units for the long term homeless.