How many people are homeless? It’s extremely difficult to say. Most studies are limited to counting people who are in shelters or on the streets. While this approach may yield useful information about the number of people who use services such as shelters and soup kitchens, or who are easy to locate on the street, it can result in underestimates of homelessness. Many people who lack a stable, permanent residence have few shelter options because shelters are filled to capacity or are unavailable. Many additional people, who are “doubled-up” with friends and relatives, are also not counted.
According to recent local Point-in-Times counts, the number of homeless individuals in Durham increased 26%, from 535 people to 675, between 2009 and 2010. The number of homeless families increased by 50%, from 34 to 51 families (including 84 homeless children).
However, of the total number of homeless people, the percentage of them counted in emergency shelters has decreased from nearly 60% in 2007 to about 43% in 2010, while the percentage of people in transitional shelter has increased correspondingly.
The graph below, based on “Point-in-time” counts conducted in Durham and Orange Counties in January 2010, reveal the differences in numbers of homeless individuals with and without dependent children, and between Orange and Durham Counties.