Harvey triggered increase in area's homeless, advocates say

Laura Garcia By Laura Garcia

Jan. 29, 2018 at 10:21 p.m.
Updated Jan. 30, 2018 at 6 a.m.

Bridgette Postel, right, and Michael Rojas visit with  Ginny Stafford of Mid-Coast Family Services after dropping off food for the warming center at Central Church of Christ.

Bridgette Postel, right, and Michael Rojas visit with Ginny Stafford of Mid-Coast Family Services after dropping off food for the warming center at Central Church of Christ.    Evan Lewis for The Victoria Advocate

The number of people needing permanent housing in Victoria and Calhoun counties increased by 58 percent during the past year.

Every January, homeless advocates document the number of people living on the streets and in shelters on a single day to qualify for federal funding for homeless programs.

The Point-in-Time homeless count is different every year, said Ginny Stafford, executive director of Mid-Coast Family Services.

Last year, officials discovered that 142 people needed permanent housing in the area; this year that number was 225.

At least 99 of those counted said they were homeless because of Hurricane Harvey.

The Victoria Area Homeless Coalition, which coordinates the count, found 42 people living in cars, sheds and on the street on Thursday compared to 66 last year in both Victoria and Calhoun counties.

"It's not really reliable, but it's the best number we've got," Stafford said.

The weather was not nearly as cold during the count as it was last year, so Stafford wondered why the number of unsheltered people decreased.

She believes many families are living together. VISD has at this point documented 1,035 homeless students.

After looking at the data collected, Coalition President Lisa Griffin noticed the number of individuals living in shelters or part of a rapid re-housing program had increased from 76 to at least 183. This includes 91 individuals who are homeless because of Harvey.

Griffin, who is the director of homeless prevention programs at Mid-Coast, said supportive housing options for the chronically homeless had increased by 27 units because of a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

These supportive housing funds came in just as the community suffered a loss of beds for the homeless.

Salvation Army, which operates the men's shelter in Victoria, has been closed for repairs since Harvey. This also meant the closure of the night-time soup kitchen.

House of Dreams was closed at the end of 2016 and is expected to reopen later this year to accommodate pregnant high school students.

Restoration House provides a home for women recovering from substance abuse and Mid-Coast Women's Crisis Center provides a shelter for domestic violence and sexual assault victims.

Perpetual Help Home, which also houses women and children, sustained damage from Harvey and beds were reduced.

Rushing Wind Fellowship typically opens its church as an emergency shelter during harsh weather conditions.

Stafford said a clearer picture came from this season's warming shelters, which were operated by the coalition.

"It reminds us of the reality," she said. "It gave the volunteers the chance to hear their stories."

Griffin said there were 64 people who stayed in the warming shelters, which included 47 men, 16 women and one youth.

She said eight of those people have now found housing.

These coalition warming shelters were funded by local donors last month when they asked for help.

"It's really made a difference," she said.



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