For the first time in five years, Austin has seen an increase in its homeless population, according to numbers released by the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) Wednesday.
As a part of the annual count conducted by ECHO, volunteers found that between January 2015 and January of this year, the homeless count rose by 20 percent. Austin has seen that increase despite the fact that between 2011 and 2015, Austin's homeless count has consistently decreased.
“The Count (sic) confirms what we see … people living on the streets in all corners of our community, ” said Judy Maggio, a member of the ECHO board of directors, in the statement released by the organization.
The total number of homeless in 2015 jumped from 1,832 to 2,197 in 2016.
In the annual total count of the homeless population, the organization distinguishes between homeless people who are staying in emergency shelters and transitional housing and people who were found outside, in cars, in public restrooms and in tents.
ECHO notes in the press release that "because these numbers reflect the number of people we count and the number of people we serve in programs for the literally homeless, it is impossible to know if the absolute number of people experiencing homelessness is up, or if we just counted and served more."
Leaders spoke with KVUE last year about why ECHO conducts these annual studies.
"We're out there counting everybody that we can find and all of this is to really drive ending homelessness," said Niki Paul, an operations manager with ECHO. "We need these numbers to be able to end homelessness."