NORRISTOWN — A Point-in-Time Count revealed 357 people experiencing homelessness throughout Montgomery County on a cold night in January.
The 2023 statistics released by the county last week revealed several capacities in which people found themselves unhoused on Jan. 24:
• 217 people were sleeping in a site-based emergency shelter
• 30 people were staying in transitional housing facilities
• 110 people were found unsheltered on the night of the count
The count, which is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, covered areas in and around Abington, Ambler, Ardmore, Bridgeport, Cheltenham, King of Prussia, Lansdale, Lower Merion, Norristown, Pottstown, Souderton and Willow Grove.
The 2022 Point-in-Time Count revealed 568 people were staying in “emergency shelters,” “transitional housing projects” or outside. Several factors contributed to the staggering statistics including the remnants of Hurricane Ida in September 2021. The storm produced historic flooding levels, displacing many.
However, the current figures represent a 37 percent decrease from the prior year’s count, according to county officials.
“We have made progress overall in bringing the number of unhoused people down over the years, but it is completely and morally unacceptable to find more than 100 of our fellow citizens living without a roof over their heads,” said Montgomery County Commissioners’ Chairman Ken Lawrence in a statement.
Thirty-eight volunteers participated in surveying homelessness. In addition, participants passed out supplies and offered passage to area Code Blue shelters, according to county officials.
Other factors contributing to the number included the closure of the Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center back in June 2022, which a county spokesperson said “contributed to the number of unsheltered individuals.” Housing costs and a lack of affordable housing options remain a top issue of concern in Montgomery County, according to Kayleigh Silver, administrator of the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Housing and Community Development.
“The rise in the unsheltered population in the county, to me, demonstrates the increased need for safe, affordable, dignified housing,” Silver said in a statement. “Recent research has shown that communities where people spend more than 32 percent of their income on rent can expect a more rapid increase in homelessness.”
Montgomery County has 37 rental units that are considered “affordable” per 100 households “making below $35,000,” according to figures from the Montgomery County Planning Commission. Around 65.5 percent of renters in households making less than $35,000 pay more than 50 percent of monthly income “income toward gross rent, including utilities.”
“Here in Montgomery County, we know through our data and research that nearly half of renters are cost-burdened, and costs of housing have risen in almost every municipality, in some instances 12-to-17 percent year-over-year,” Silver said.
County officials maintained that count numbers are considered preliminary until the final count is issued by the federal Housing and Urban Development agency.