Homelessness increased by 50% in the Southern Tier, count finds

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A homeless encampment in Ithaca. (Megan Zerez/WSKG)

BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG)—Homelessness in the Southern Tier increased by more than 50 percent over the past year, according to new preliminary data from the Southern Tier Homeless Coalition.

The coalition runs programs and tracks homelessness in Broome, Chenango, Otsego, Cortland, Delaware and Tioga counties. Across that region, 483 people either stayed in shelters or on the street on a single night this year.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires the programs it funds to conduct an annual count of its homeless population, as well as the available shelter options. The Point-in-Time count typically occurs over one night each January.

This year, fieldworkers counted nearly 70 unsheltered people, up from 16 in 2020, living in homeless encampments and other places unsuitable for human habitation. The coalition did not count the number of people unsheltered in 2021 due to the pandemic.

At the time of the count this year, 345 people stayed in emergency shelters, compared to 244 in 2021. Emergency shelter data includes both traditional shelter beds and motels agencies like county departments of social services contract with.

According to the coalition’s report, the number of motel beds contracted by the Broome County Department of Social Services increased from 92 to 234 over the past year.

While the number of total emergency shelter beds increased by 138, shelter providers and advocates say the more than 530 emergency housing beds across the region are at maximum capacity.

Coalition members also say it is extremely difficult to find permanent housing for people coming out of shelters.

Advocates statewide have called on the government to fund additional supportive housing options, which offers residents at risk of homelessness additional services, like case management. Across the Southern Tier, the number of permanent supportive units increased slightly, from 409 to 475.

Tallies may be adjusted once HUD releases its final report this spring.