‘Good sign for the future’: Chester County homeless population decreases by 23%

Homelessness is on the decline in Chester County, Pa. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Homelessness is on the decline in Chester County, Pa. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

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The number of people experiencing homelessness in Chester County has taken a nosedive in 2022. The latest headcount shows a 23% decrease in homelessness over the past two years.

“I’m so glad — relieved that the number is going down. We’re not there … We still have 400 people that are homeless. But to have a reduction of 23%, given the economy and everything that goes on, I think it’s a really good sign for the future,” Chester County Commissioner Marian Moskowitz said.

The Point in Time count is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is meant to serve as a snapshot of the issue. This year, the Chester County Department of Community Development found 402 people experiencing homelessness.

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“That means they were living in a temporary shelter or sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation such as a car, a park, an abandoned building, something of that sort,” said Dolores Colligan, the department’s director.

People of color made up almost half of that number.

Colligan’s department uses both an analysis of data that is in the county’s Homeless Management Information System to find those who are sheltered and the deployment of several teams across the county to look for people late at night and into the early hours of the morning.

The last time Chesco conducted a Point in Time count was back in January 2020 — where the department found 522 without a permanent home. Last year’s tally was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

From 2017 to 2020, the Point in Time count showed a decrease of only 48 people. That number has now diminished by 120 people during the last two years.

County officials see this year’s decline in the headcount as a sign of true progress, but they emphasize the fact that the work is far from over.

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“It’s down 23%, which is amazing — but we also still have 400 people that are homeless, and 100 of those are children. They’re our neighbors, our friends, the people who we go to church with, the people the kids go to school with, and so we have a responsibility to our community, the county has a responsibility to help keep reducing that until we have a place for everybody,” Moskowitz said.

Chester County joined the federal House America Initiative in June as county officials seek to follow through on their commitment to affordable housing.

Colligan said that some early results in the county’s investments are coming soon.

“We currently have funds invested in four affordable housing developments that will be developed throughout Chester County,” Colligan said.

Two of them will be ready to go by the end of this year.

Saturdays just got more interesting.

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