The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO), an NLIHC state partner, has undertaken Ohio’s first statewide effort at united data collection and reporting on people experiencing homelessness. COHHIO combined statewide point-in-time counts of homeless individuals with housing/shelter inventories and HMIS data that homeless service providers give to HUD. The resulting 2008 Ohio Homelessness Report gives advocates and policy makers a preliminary picture of homelessness during one 24-hour period in January 2008.
COHHIO hopes that this unique endeavor helps stakeholders gain an understanding of the scope and size of homelessness in their communities. From this more complete understanding of needs and trends, COHHIO believes that better programs and services can be developed, appropriate resources allocated, and more inclusive forms of community planning carried out. In addition, by tracking the numbers over time, stakeholders can attempt to measure the success of various programs.
COHHIO stresses that the data do not represent the number of people who experienced homelessness over the course of a year, which would be a much larger number of people.
Also, COHHIO hopes that this first endeavor will serve as a baseline for future annual homeless counting, data analysis, and reporting.
“All data reflecting ‘the total number of homeless people’ have their limitations,” noted Bill Faith, COHHIO executive director, “but the point-in-time count data is particularly controversial. It captures the number of homeless on a given night only. This data point can be compared from one year to the next, but is incapable of capturing the large numbers who are turned away at shelters, who are doubled up with family or friends, or who avoid the annual point-in-time count altogether.” He continued, saying “the 2008 Ohio Homelessness Report is the first of its kind, unifying all statewide data to establish a benchmark report by which to compare future reports of the same kind. It’s the first time we’ll be able to compare apples to apples at the state level from one year to the next.”
The snapshot shows that during a single 24-hour period in January 2008, 12,801 people were homeless across the state. Of these, 81% were sheltered, 39% were people in families, 19% were chronically homeless, and 16% were severely mentally ill. Ohio’s mostly rural counties accounted for 35% of the state’s total number of homeless people on that day. In rural areas, 29% of the homeless people were unsheltered, compared to 14% of urban homeless, and rural people in families comprised 50% of the rural homeless population, compared to urban areas where there was a range, from 20% in the Cleveland area to up to 49% in the Youngstown area.