NORMAN — The number of people deemed homeless in Cleveland County has increased slightly since last year.
Lisa Krieg, City of Norman grants planner, reported this past week that the number of homeless people in the county this year is 621. Last year there were 615.
However, the definition of being homeless, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has also changed, Krieg said. If you factor those changes in, there are only 264 listed as chronically homeless according to HUD regulations, she said.
Since Norman and Cleveland County are gathering their data primarily for HUD, they use HUD’s definition of homelessness when turning in the results. This means they do not factor in what they call “couch surfers” and they no longer can include the number of homeless kids that public schools in the county provide for them.
But, those people were still counted during the 24-hour period that the count took place in January.
Krieg said what might be most interesting about the statistics this year is that last year, public schools county wide reported 269 homeless children and this year there were 357.
“Norman itself is a good portion of that,” she said.
Krieg said they crosscheck the names provided by schools with shelters and other programs so individuals are not getting counted twice.
“Obviously there’s been an increase in demand for services, and there’s been a combination of a lot of things like the economy and availability of services.”
When looking at numbers from 2012, it is also important to remember that Food and Shelter was not operating as an overnight shelter yet. Those counted in emergency shelters more than doubled this year coming in at 83. Last year there were 39.
In addition, those who were unsheltered or living on the streets this year totaled to 42 and there were 187 last year. Krieg said the primary difference was the opening of Food and Shelter, as well as the change of the definition of homelessness.
There were 120 people in transitional housing last year. This year there were 139, which Krieg attributed to the fullness of programs.
“Previously if someone was on a waiting list to go into a program and they were bouncing around, we would count them homeless. With the change in definition, we cannot count them,” she said.
Krieg said overall, she thinks they are also doing a much better job of counting homeless people.