MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee is bucking nationwide homeless trends during the pandemic. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says homelessness is on the rise for the 4th consecutive year. But in Milwaukee County, the numbers are down.
Milwaukee City & County’s Continuum of Care was developed to end homelessness in the area. While that goal hasn’t been reached, new numbers show the area is headed in the right direction.
“The fact that our community is reporting a dramatic decrease in homelessness during the pandemic is a success,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
In the most recent January 2021 count, 817 people in the county identified as homeless. That’s down from 970 the year before. Of those, only 17 were “unsheltered” or without a roof over their head.
James Mathy is Milwaukee County’s Housing Administrator, and he says federal, state and local funding for pandemic-related homelessness assistance has driven the ability to house those who are homeless and kept evictions from multiplying.
He says once that funding goes away, it will be up to the locals to figure out how to keep the progress, but is also proud of the area’s standing.
“Based on what we’ve seen, we believe we have the lowest street count in the country for a community of our size at the moment,” said Mathy.
Another component of reducing the numbers is the Outreach Teams, which go into the streets every night hoping to make contact with someone who needs shelter.
They practice “Housing First”: the belief that getting a roof over someone’s head will help alleviate many other problems in their life.
“The main goal every time teams go out is to house somebody as quickly as possible,” said Eric Collins-Dyke, the Assistant Administrator of Supportive Housing and Homeless Services.
The Homeless Count taken in January 2021 in Milwaukee showed more than 150 fewer people identified as homeless, than in 2020.