AUSTIN, Texas — The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, better known as ECHO, conducts a Point in Time count of people experiencing homelessness in Austin and Travis County every year.
The count had been put on hold for the past two years due to COVID-19 safety concerns, but 2023 was the first year to resume the count.
"On Jan. 28, 2023, our community in Austin and Travis County, Texas, identified a total of 2,374 people experiencing homelessness at that single point in time,” said Claire Burrus, the research and evaluation manager at ECHO.
In 2020, ECHO counted 2,506 people experiencing homelessness in Austin-Travis County. This year, that number shrunk down to 2,374. Over 700 volunteers for ECHO conducted interviews and observations in 74 different areas throughout Austin and parts of Travis County from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m., but ECHO said the reinstatement of Austin's camping ban could have had an effect on their ability to locate everyone.
"I think that it's clear that folks are having to move into places and live in places that are more disconnected from services,” said Matt Mollica, executive director of ECHO.
Of the more than 2,000 people counted, 1,266 were unsheltered and 1,108 were in transitional housing. Another major finding was that more people were found in green spaces like parks, nature preserves and greenbelts this year. In 2020, 5.2% of the people counted were found in green spaces, but in 2023, that percentage shot up to 13.6%.
ECHO also found that even though District 9 had the highest concentration of people experiencing homelessness, there was a general decrease of people found in central areas. The number of people experiencing homelessness in District 9 was a 35.2% decrease from 2020.
ECHO said both of these findings could also be related to the camping ban.
"People are trying to be out of site and hiding a little bit more, I think. That's our suspicion,” said Akram Al-Turk, research and development director at ECHO.
There was some positive news from the report. This year saw more people exiting homelessness to permanent housing than any previous year. The system's capacity to house people in permanent supportive housing has increased 59% since 2019 and 14% between 2022 and 2023. ECHO anticipates that 1,000 new site-based permanent supportive housing units will be available by 2025.
You can find the full report and other data on ECHO’s website.
ECHO also measures the scope of homelessness through its monthly Homelessness Response System Dashboard, which uses data from its local Homeless Management Information System to estimate the number of people experiencing homelessness. ECHO counts the number of people who take a Coordinated Assessment (CA), report living unsheltered on the CA and who had interacted with the Homelessness Response System in the past 180 days.