Homelessness rates have increased in the Charlottesville and Albemarle County, fueled by impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless.
Anthony Haro, of the coalition, presented the organization’s findings at Monday’s City Council work session.
“We believe everyone deserves a safe place to call home, it’s a human right,” Haro said.
About 70% of people who needed the coalition’s services in 2021 were experiencing homelessness for the first time, according to the report.
The coalition identified 260 individuals who were homeless in the city and the county, an increase from 177 in 2021. The numbers were generated from a point-in-time survey in which the coalition went out to survey the homeless population on a night in January.
Haro said the city needs to focus on a goal of making homelessness rare, brief and nonrecurring.
“Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets,” Haro said.
Haro said the system currently seems to be set to allow homelessness, if not create it. That, needs to change, he said, and that means the systems in place need to be changed.
“How do we move forward properly so that the homeless service system [and] all the systems that we’re interconnected with can be aligned?” he asked. “And how do [we get] the right resources to reach our goals?”
The point-in-time survey found that 69% of homeless individuals were male, 29% were female, 1% were transgender and 1% identified as no single gender.
Haro said it is possible that the numbers of transgender and non-binary individuals experiencing homelessness is higher.
The coalition found that 52% of homeless individuals were white, 41% were Black and 7% identified as another race.
Haro said the coalition identified 12 area veterans experiencing homelessness and that the survey found 20% of adults reporting that they experienced domestic violence at some point in their past.
Another 32% of adults reported mental health conditions and 57% of adults reported a chronic health condition or physical disability.
Haro said the most important solution to the problem is for the city to increase access to affordable housing.
“The most significant shift has just occurred over this past year and it’s directly related to the pandemic and things that the pandemic has brought with it, like high housing costs, and lack of available affordable housing,” Haro said. “Housing solves homelessness.”
Other proposed solutions include increasing emergency shelter access and finding more sources of transitional housing.
In 2021, 47% of participants who left the coalition’s homeless programs went to a housed situation, a hotel or lived with friends and family. The average length of stay in emergency shelters was 136 days.