The number of people who are homeless is increasing in Douglas County, and so are the odds that they’re female, a new report from City Hall suggests.
Homeless totals in early 2011 grew to 226 people — up from 104 in 2009 — according to an official “point-in-time” count conducted by city and county leaders once every two years.
The survey also found that the number of women who are homeless increased sharply, rising to 44 percent in 2011 compared with 25 percent in 2009.
Loring Henderson, director of the Lawrence Community Shelter, said the numbers were a mixed bag.
“I don’t think the number of homeless people has really grown at all,” he said. “I just think the count is better. I don’t know that you can rely on 226 being a good number either, but it is better.”
Henderson said he thinks the new report does a better job of showing who is homeless and some of the reasons why. He agrees with the finding that women have become a larger percentage of the homeless population. That also means more children. The latest report found 69 children who were homeless.
“Our numbers at the shelter haven’t shown quite that big of an increase, but there definitely are more women and more families.”
Other findings from the study include:
• 33 adults and three families met the definition of being chronically homeless, which means they have been homeless for one year or more, or have had at least four instances of homelessness in the past three years and have a disabling condition.
• 30 percent of the homeless counted in the survey were found to have a severe mental illness.
• 23 percent of the homeless said they had a physical disability or illness; 22 percent said they suffered from chronic drug abuse; 21 percent from chronic alcohol abuse; and 4 percent from a developmental disability.
The count was taken on Jan. 26, but results were released on Friday. The count includes only people who are “literally homeless,” which is different from some other homeless counts. Some counts include people who are “doubling up” by sleeping on a friend’s couch or a similar situation. This count only includes people who are staying in an emergency shelter, transitional housing or are sleeping in cars, under bridges or other places not meant for human habitation.