Las Vegas has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country, but that rate is going down.
The latest Southern Nevada Homeless Census counted 5,286 homeless people. That's the smallest number of homeless recorded since the count has been taking place.
The census is done in January. During it, volunteers fan out across the county to physically count the number of people living on the street, in desert areas, in flood tunnels, in homeless shelters or anywhere that is not suitable for long-term human habitation.
While the count gives an accurate picture of the number of people who are homeless at that moment in time, the Department of Housing and Urban Development says over the course of a year an estimated 14,000 people will experience homeless in Southern Nevada. However, that number is also down compared to 16,000 last year.
Mike Pawlak is the director of social services for Clark County.
He told KNPR’s State of Nevada the community’s active approach to permanent-supportive housing and the emphasis on rapid rehousing has helped bring down the number of homeless.
“They are evidence-based practices that have really high outcomes and lead to keeping people permanently housed,” he said. “I think some of those efforts are part of these results.”
While the drop in homelessness is good news, Pawlak said there is still an unacceptably high rate of homelessness in Clark County. But he said the improvement in homeless numbers will not impact efforts to bring in more federal funding. Pawlak said the quality of the efforts in the state is more important than the actual number of people being served.
Michele Fuller-Hallauer is the social services manager for Clark County. She said the growth in permanent supportive housing, which is housing that comes with wrap-around services to address some of people’s needs from mental health care to job skill building, has improved the homeless count numbers.
Part of the reason the region has seen that growth is the diligent effort made to secure more federal funding and more private funding, she said. In addition, a coordinated system of getting people into housing has helped.
“We are now able to make sure that those folks that are the most vulnerable, the most at risk of severe harm, are put into those scarce resources for permanent supportive housing,” she said.
Fuller-Hallauer said while things are getting better, the system still doesn’t have enough of everything to serve all the people who need help.
Beyond helping those who have slipped into homelessness, she said the root of the problem still needs to be addressed.
“But ultimately, the crux of everything is affordable housing,” she said. “Without affordable housing, folks are going to continue to have a housing crisis and become homeless. It’s becoming more and more difficult for our homeless service providers to connect with landlords and units to put folks into while they’re giving them support services and moving them to self-sufficiency.”
Mike Pawlak, director of social services, Clark County; Michele Fuller-Hallauer, social services manager, Clark County
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