Special to the Sun
Last week Mayor Michelle Wu led a dedicated group of volunteers, including officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, City and State officials, homelessness service providers, local elected officials, and public health and first responders in conducting the 44th annual homelessness census for the City of Boston. The count of Bostonians experiencing homelessness plays a crucial role in guiding the allocation of City resources to aid people experiencing homelessness.
“Boston’s annual homelessness census is an opportunity to evaluate the needs of unsheltered Bostonians and connect individuals to services,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “The data from the census is crucial for the City as we act with urgency and care to create an inclusive Boston for everyone. We are grateful to our state and federal partners and the dedicated volunteers throughout the City for their collaboration in making this year’s census possible.”
The street count is an integral part of the City’s comprehensive yearly census, encompassing unsheltered adults, youth, and families in emergency shelters, transitional housing, domestic violence programs, and individuals living outside. This year, more than 270 volunteers canvassed 45 areas after midnight, covering every City neighborhood, Logan Airport, and the transit and parks systems. Volunteers canvassed assigned areas, identified those sleeping on the street, conducted a short survey, and provided individuals with important safety information and items to help them keep warm.
“The Annual Point-In-Time count is an important undertaking because it provides a national estimate of the men, women, and families in need of a home, many who are struggling to survive,” said Juana Matias, HUD New England Regional Administrator. “We are grateful to be able to take this opportunity to join Mayor Wu, the City of Boston, and community partners to provide a local estimate of Boston’ numbers and ensure this data can be leveraged to efficiently connect people experiencing homelessness to housing and supportive services. The Biden-Harris administration believes that homelessness is solvable and is committed to helping localities to tackle this growing crisis.”
The data from the in-person surveys of unsheltered individuals will undergo a thorough analysis for accuracy and will be cross-checked and combined with the results of the shelter count. The annual homelessness census, mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is an important requirement for Boston receiving federal grant funding from HUD for housing and services for those experiencing homelessness.
“I want to thank our partners, our network of experienced non-profit organizations and our dedicated volunteers for joining us for the point and time count of people experiencing homelessness in Boston,” said Sheila Dillon, Chief of Housing. “The census helps to guide the critical work of moving our homeless residents into housing with the services they need to be successful. We look forward to continuing to work together with our partners to help prevent and end homelessness in Boston.”
“This census isn’t just about numbers. It’s about assessing the needs of our most vulnerable and finding ways to meet those needs,” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Commissioner of Public Health and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “At BPHC, we know many of our unsheltered residents by name —and we know their situations —and I am grateful to the City and all our partners for their commitment to treating our unsheltered residents with compassion and helping them get the care they need.”
The City of Boston, with its partners, continues its work to end chronic and veteran homelessness using the Housing First approach. This evidence-based approach aims to provide permanent and stable housing without preconditions like sobriety or treatment. In recent years, City agencies and community partners have significantly redesigned the way services are delivered to homeless individuals, increasing resources devoted to housing and deploying new technologies to match homeless individuals with housing and services.
“The annual Homeless Census, conducted by the City of Boston, provides Pine Street Inn and other agencies a critical snapshot of trends in Boston,” said Lyndia Downie, president and executive director, Pine Street Inn. “This important data helps guide our strategies and programs, as we focus our efforts on moving individuals off the street, out of shelter and into a permanent home. Boston’s street homelessness rate is around 3%, one of the best in the nation, but any person on the street is one too many,” she added.
Last fall, a dozen City departments and partner agencies transformed how the City cares for unsheltered constituents impacted by substance use disorder, homelessness, and untreated mental illness, with a focus on the ‘Mass and Cass’ / Newmarket neighborhood. In September 2023, the City of Boston submitted a grant proposal of $44 million to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to support Boston’s homelessness programs in 2025 through HUD’s McKinney Homeless Continuum of Care program.
This year’s homeless census results will be available in the coming months.