The number of homeless living in Nashville shelters and on streets has risen slightly in the past year, according to figures released Friday by the Metro housing department.
During the agency’s annual homeless count, officials found 2,321 people experiencing some form of homelessness, up from last year’s count of 2,159.
“It’s about what I estimated, what I thought it would be for a point-in-time count,” Clifton Harris, director of the Metro Homelessness Commission, told The City Paper.
The count, which the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requests annually of cities receiving federal funding to combat homelessness, was taken during the early hours of Jan. 27. Officials and volunteers from more than 30 government and nonprofit agencies and businesses scoured the city’s streets, camps and known locales for the homeless; they literally counted the people they found.
“I think these numbers demonstrate an increased number of services and probably indicate some success in getting folks into shelter, simply because the outdoor count was the one area that dropped,” said Metro Councilman Erik Cole, who also chairs the homelessness commission. The report also notes that 60 fewer people were found sleeping outdoors than the year prior, suggesting an increase in services.
But the continuing increase in homelessness overall is “still a major concern for the city,” Cole said.
Most acknowledge that this kind of count is not an entirely accurate reading of a city’s overall homeless population. Harris said on any given night, there are about 4,000 people living on Nashville’s streets and in its shelters.