The annual Point-in-Time survey, which tallies the number of individuals and families experiencing homelessness across the country, found a 50% increase in the chronic homeless population in Buncombe County from last year, while overall homelessness in the county rose by 4%.
The Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative, a joint committee of the city of Asheville and Buncombe County, collected data assembled during one day, Jan. 30. Area homeless shelters and more than two dozen volunteers performed the count. Brian Huskey, Asheville-Buncombe Homelessness Initiative staff liaison, notes that homeless populations fluctuate throughout the year and that the Point-in-Time data is meant to provide an estimate for the county.
“While a one-night count doesn’t represent everyone who experiences homelessness throughout the year, it is a useful annual snapshot that helps us to track trends over time,” Huskey said in a May 3 press release.
The survey also found increases among multiple homeless subpopulations, including homeless families, which rose by just over 5%. Homeless veterans only saw a 3.6% increase from last year but made up the largest portion of the local homeless population, with more than 250 people counted in the 2019 survey. The number of unaccompanied homeless youth and young adults also experienced a 26% jump.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, gathering specific data regarding homeless populations through Point-in-Time counts helps communities attract resources, increase public awareness and adequately serve their homeless residents.
In spring 2017, Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Commissioners adopted the Five Year Strategic Plan on Homelessness, which aims to establish annual goals that address the needs of subpopulations within the homeless community. The plan also seeks to increase affordable housing initiatives through public-private partnerships.
The Point-in-Time survey is required for communities that receive federal funds from the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program. The full report was submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development last month.