A new report from the Ohio Human Services Data Warehouse finds the number of Ohioans experiencing homelessness continues to rise. In 2018, 76,478 unique individuals were served by Ohio's Continuums of Care organizations. The number of people experiencing homelessness has grown consistently, increasing by 30.8% between 2012 and 2018. During the same time, Ohio's entire population grew by only 1.3%.
Some trends witnessed in past reports remain consistent: the number of families, older adults, and children entering the homelessness system continues to increase, as well as deep racial inequalities. Older adults, aged 55 to 64 and 65 or older, saw the most substantial increases in homelessness services with growths of 85% and 208% respectively. Homelessness for older adults is particularly concerning, as this population is at much higher risk for health issues, emergency department visits, and high rates of early mortality.
The next largest increases were in children ages 5-9 and 10-14, which both increased nearly 50% from 2012-2018. Similarly, the number of families experiencing homelessness has increased 20% since 2012. More than 28,800 people entered as part of a family unit, 64.8% of whom were children under 18. Children who experience homelessness are at much greater risk for long-term problems with health, psychological well-being, and school success, since the lack of permanent shelter also affects access to nutrition, healthcare, stability, sleep, education, and many other important factors for long-term health and well-being.
We continue to see deep racial inequalities in housing access, poverty, and homelessness. White individuals made up 81% of the total state population in 2018, but comprised only 45.4% of those served. By contrast, Black individuals were over-represented. Black individuals represented 12.4% of Ohio's population in 2018, but made up 48.8% of clients accessing services. This imbalance reflects a persistent inequality in access to housing, wealth, and economic opportunity in Ohio. Past practices, such as redlining and racial bias in lending, have created a deep divide in homeownership between Black and white Ohioans. Continued discrimination exists in many facets of the labor and housing market, affecting credit access, housing appraisals, household income, etc., putting Black Ohioans at greater risk of housing instability and homelessness.
The increase in homelessness reflects, in part, the lack of affordable and available housing in Ohio. In 2018, there was a shortage of 256,875 affordable units. For the lowest income groups there were only 44 affordable and available units for every 100 extremely low-income households. These low-income households have also become increasingly cost burdened over time; in 2018, more than 70% of Ohio's lowest earning paid more than 50% of their income on rent—compared to less than 1% of those with higher incomes. Both housing shortages and higher cost burden put people at a higher risk for housing cost burden, housing instability, and homelessness. To ensure a healthy and safe future for all Ohioans – including the aging adults and children who are increasingly experiencing homelessness – it is critical to ensure sufficient affordable housing for families, as well as strong supports, like Rapid Rehousing, for those who may be housing insecure and at risk for becoming homeless.