Boston's annual homelessness census took place on Monday, an event that has volunteers take to the streets to try to get an accurate count of how many people are experiencing homelessness in the city.
A group of more than 200 volunteers, including members of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), city and state officials, homelessness services providers, and public health and first responders, canvassed 45 different areas, including all of the city's neighborhoods, Logan Airport and the transit and parks systems. The goal is for volunteers to meet and identify people sleeping on the street, conduct a short survey and offer unhoused individuals with resources and safety information.
The results of the street count will be added to a separate shelter count to give an estimate of the total number of individuals living unhoused in the city.
"Boston’s annual homelessness census is an opportunity to assess the need for housing across our neighborhoods and move us closer to ensuring that every resident has a safe, healthy, affordable place to call home,” Wu said in a statement “Last night’s Census is critical to ensuring that the City moves with urgency and care as we work to improve the lives of our residents and build a Boston for everyone."
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In June 2022, Wu said the city had seen a 2.4% decrease in the number of people experiencing homelessness - from 1,659 in 2021 to 1,545 in 2022. The city continues to work on various initiatives to tackle the issue. This year's numbers will be released after the data is cross-checked and added to the shelter count, in several months' time.
Federal initiatives to help end homelessness
The census is required by HUD to receive certain federal funding. Boston receives more than $38 million in federal grant funding to help aid programs and services for those experiencing homelessness. In Sept. 2022, the city submitted a grant proposal requesting $41 million to support Boston's programs through 2024 through HUD’s McKinney Homeless Continuum of Care program.
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In 2021, Boston committed to a HUD initiative called House America, which challenged local leaders to address the issue of homelessness. By the end of 2022 Boston had exceeded its commitment by housing 1,161 people and creating 739 housing units - the goal had been housing at least 1,100 households and 650 units of housing.