FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, December 10, 2020
Media Contact: Dorcas Jones
Pre-Pandemic Homelessness Numbers Provide Glimpse into Possible Post-Pandemic Challenges
COLUMBUS, OH - While the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic crisis is still largely unknown, it is likely to exacerbate the patterns of homelessness that pre-existed the pandemic. Homelessness in Ohio, a new report from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, says Ohioans experiencing homelessness grew by 30.8% between 2012 and 2018. During the same period, Ohio's population grew by only 1.3%.
According to the report, the number of children, families and older adults accessing homelessness services continues to increase. Of those accessing homelessness services, a third were children under the age of 18, including 2,258 infants who had not yet reached their first birthday. The largest group of children entering the homelessness system were between 5-14 years old.
Adults aged 55 and older also accessed homelessness services at a rise of 50% over six years. The trend is disturbing because older homeless adults are more likely to have high mortality rates and other health issues.
"The growing number of Ohioans accessing homelessness services is connected to a lack of affordable and accessible housing," said Shawn Smith, OHFA's Interim Executive Director. "As Ohioans continue to weather this pandemic, many more will face housing instability, a factor likely to exacerbate this already troubling trend."
In 2018, about one in every 15 Ohioans accessed homelessness services. During the same period, one in every eight Ohioans lived below the poverty line.
These increases in individuals experiencing homelessness correlate with a tight and more expensive housing market. According to The Ohio Housing Needs Assessment, the state faces low rates of construction and vacancy, but rising home costs, contributing to increasing housing cost burden on residents.
As the state continues to reel from the social and economic shocks of the pandemic, those who are experiencing homelessness or who are struggling with housing cost burden could be among the last to recover.
Data in the Homelessness in Ohio report comes from the Ohio Human Services Data Warehouse, which aggregates unidentified data from individuals accessing homelessness services through the state's nine Continuums of Care.
Upon entering a CoC-affiliated housing program, clients report their most recent housing situation as one of four categories: literally homeless, imminent risk situation, institutional settings or other prior conditions. Of the 76,478 individuals who access homelessness services in 2018, 63% of them were literally homeless while 18% of people were living in places not fit for habitation.
This is the third homelessness report released by the OHFA, aimed at informing on the interrelated issues of homelessness and poverty. This year's full report is available on the OHFA website, in addition to previous year's reports.