Homeless numbers drop nationally, not locally

The number of Americans who are chronically homeless dropped by nearly 12 percent last year, according to government estimates released Wednesday.

But in Lawrence, the numbers of homeless appear to be staying the same or possibly increasing slightly, said Loring Henderson, director of Lawrence Community Shelter.

“It’s hard to tell because so much is changing in Lawrence as far as our programs and things that are available and are not available,” Henderson said.

A census taken in Lawrence on Jan. 29 found there were nearly 400 homeless adults and children in the community. Of that number, 32 were classified as “chronically” homeless – but that number might have been low, since a number of people known to be chronically homeless refuse to cooperate with such studies.

The federal definition for chronically homeless is someone with a disabling condition who has either been continuously homeless for a year or more or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past year.

Nationally, the number of chronically homeless dropped from 175,900 in 2005 to 155,600 in 2006, the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported. HUD credited government programs designed to move homeless people into permanent housing for the decline.

Lawrence task force recommended and local leaders and services hope they can soon provide similar programs to move people into permanent housing.

“We don’t have a lot of that,” Henderson said. “We don’t have any in-house treatment programs in Lawrence; it’s outpatient.”