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First State saw 950 homeless people in annual count


A January survey of Delaware's homeless found 950 people sleeping in shelters or outdoors, according to newly released data from the Delaware Homeless Planning Council.


The count, part of a national one-night point in time survey, is down just 15 people from 2014's number.


A third of those counted in Delaware made up families with adults and children, says Council community planning and engagement director Rachel Beatty.


"When people think about homelessness, I think oftentimes people have a picture in their head of an older, single male, maybe on a park bench," Beatty says. "But a lot of households with children, as the data shows, unfortunately are experiencing homelessness."


In January, at least 11 families were found to be chronically homeless -- meaning they'd gone without permanent shelter for more than a year due to a diagnosable disability.


But Beatty says people under age 18 are more likely to have at least temporary shelter. In fact, only 4 percent of people counted in January were found to be sleeping outdoors, and all of them were adults -- though Beatty says that number can be tough to confirm.


"Some folks, if they are sleeping outdoors, are purposely looking to find places where they won't be found," she says. "So it can sometimes be hard to know whether or not we're locating all of the people who might be sleeping outside."


That's especially true across an entire state with a lot of open land. But most of the First State's homeless were found in more densely populated areas. Seventy-two percent of January's total was in New Castle County.


And just over a hundred of those counted statewide were military veterans. That's as state agencies aim to bring that down to zero by the end of the year.


"That number is being used by a lot of the planning groups to think about what their targets are going to be for how many veterans they're going to need to house throughout the year," Beatty says.


Last month, Gov. Jack Markell pledged to end veteran homelessness in Delaware by the end of 2015. Groups in places like Dover and New Castle County have formed to help get homeless veterans into homes of their own.

The point-in-time survey also counted shelter beds in Delaware, and found more than enough for the state's current homeless population: about 1,300 in emergency or temporary shelters, and 950 through permanent re-housing programs.


See the Homeless Planning Council's full 2015 point-in-time report here.

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