Christopher Guess (Isthmus file photo)
Homelessness in Madison has grown slightly in Madison over the past year, with city workers counting 808 people without a home on Jan. 29, 2015, including 217 children.
The "point-in-time" survey is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and done twice a year, once on a night in January and once on a night in July.
The survey includes a count of both those in shelters as well as people sleeping out on the street, in cars or in camps, provided workers can find them.
Jim O'Keefe, director of Madison's community development director, says the January tally shows a 4% increase from last January, when 777 people were counted. The year before, 831 people were identified as homeless, O'Keefe says. The number of homeless people has grown as well from last July, when 792 people were counted without homes.
The number tends to fluctuate, he says, adding: "Homelessness in this community continues to be a stubborn problem we're trying to deal with on several counts."
The January count found that 716 people were sheltered and 92 were unsheltered, compared to January 2014 when 683 people were sheltered and 94 were unsheltered. The increase in sheltered people possibly reflects a new Domestic Abuse Intervention Shelter (DAIS), which opened last year, adding 56 beds, O'Keefe says.
The January survey shows a growing number of homeless families, including some with children. In 2015, 112 families were found to be homeless, including 356 people of whom 217 were under 18. That compares to January 2014, when 107 families -- including 338 people, of whom 201 were under 18 -- were homeless.
O'Keefe says the city is working to address the problem, with a goal of creating 1,000 new affordable housing units in the next five years, including 250 units built specifically for those suffering from chronic homelessness.
Sixty of those units are already in the works, with a project at 709 Rethke Ave., next to the Aloha Hotel on East Washington Avenue. A second phase, to provide housing for families, is being proposed for the west side of town, he says.