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We’ve got a math problem.
In a report to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), city officials asserted that on any given night in 2017, 2,669 people experienced homelessness in Baltimore City.
The Baltimore City Mayor’s Office of Human Services acknowledges that the "point in time" methodology it uses to perform its count is “imperfect” and says it doesn’t “precisely reflect the actual number of homeless persons in the city.” The point in time methodology only counts sheltered residents of programs that participated in a city-issued survey. It counts only in certain areas of the city and during certain hours. It follows one of the narrowest definitions of homelessness set by HUD. And even under this definition, the number of people experiencing homelessness on a given night exceeds traditional shelter capacity.
Each year when the city performs its point in time count, it tallies more people than shelter beds.
The Journey Home: Baltimore’s Plan to Make Homelessness Rare and Brief identifies the fundamental causes of homelessness as poverty, a lack of affordable housing and a lack of comprehensive health and supportive services. When we zero in on these causes and the numbers behind them, we start to get a sense of the extent of—and potential for—homelessness in Baltimore City.
At Health Care for the Homeless:
Homelessness is an experience, not a characteristic. While the numbers behind the causes of homelessness don’t tell us exactly how many people experience homelessness in Baltimore City, they do explain why the economic landscape in Baltimore makes homelessness likely for so many.