Key Point

Overall homelessness is increasing in the metro.
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Let’s Break It Down

Prior to 2015 the number of people who were homeless was declining, but since 2015 that number has increased. 

In 2015 there were 5,542 people who were homeless, a drop from the previous years. However, in 2016 the number of people who were homeless increased to 6,947. In 2017 the number increased again with 7,405 people who experienced homelessness. In 2017 21% of people disclosed that they had a mental illness, a decline from previous years. With the increased number of people who were homeless, the number of children who were homeless also increased. In 2017 there were 1,229 children who experienced homelessness. 

Since 2015, there has been a slight increase in the number of veterans receiving homelessness services. With 457 receiving services in 2015 and 510 receiving services in 2016. 

Homelessness is difficult to track, given its transient nature. However, the majority of homeless service providers (those who receive federal funds) track how many people are served through a Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-funded database called the Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS).

Why Does It Matter?

Mental illness is an additional, but often unseen, barrier to a stable life for those who are homeless.

Homelessness prevents many of our neighbors from having a safe, stable, and healthy life. The struggle to achieve stability is even more profound for those who face additional barriers like mental illness, addiction, or seen or unseen disabilities.

 Since 2015, the number of people who were chronically homeless hit a low with 790 people, but since then has continued to rise. In 2017, there were 1,072 people who were chronically homeless, a rate similar to 2014 and earlier. In 2017 this included 113 children. People are considered chronically homeless when they have either accessed a homeless program 4 or more times in a year, or have been continuously homeless for a year or longer.

While homelessness data looks specifically at the number of people who seek services and shelter, it often misses individuals or families who are moving from relative to relative, or friend to friend, as a result of being unable to access affordable housing. This too can impact a family’s stability, but data for this is difficult to track.

How Do We Compare?

We need more local data on permanent, supportive housing options before we can say how we compare nationally.

In the 2017 National Point-in-Time Count, when the number of homeless individuals is tracked on a particular night, there were 553,742 homeless people in the United States. The Omaha-Council Bluffs metro’s count was 1,389 individuals, which translates to 196 homeless per 100,000 people (175 per capita). Comparing Midwestern cities with similar seasonal patterns, the Kansas City, MO area reported 1,671 homeless (244 per capita), Lincoln, NE reported 606 (219 per capita), and Oklahoma City, OK reported 1,368 homeless (179 per capita) individuals in one night.

More data on permanent, supportive housing options would provide better insight on this issue. The Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless (MACCH)—our community's umbrella organization for homeless services providers—estimated in 2010 that people who are currently on the public housing unit waiting lists will wait 11.5 years to be served. Up until February 2016, regular data on wait times for housing was not available community-wide. A new collection system will regularly track wait lists for Permanent Supportive Housing across the community.

Data Source: 2017 MACCH Annual Report - (data includes all but one homeless shelter in Omaha and Council Bluffs)

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