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Bexar County unhoused population slightly bigger in 2024, according to new data

A volunteer speaking with an unhoused San Antonian at the Point-in-Time Count in 2020.
Joey Palacios
A volunteer speaking with an unhoused San Antonian at the Point-in-Time Count in 2020.

The annual Point-in-Time (PIT) Count of unhoused people in Bexar County found that the unhoused population increased 6.8% from 2023, but that it only slightly outpaced total population growth in the county, according to data analysis released on Wednesday by the organization Close to Home.

The PIT Count is a one-night snapshot of homelessness in the county. It is conducted during the last 10 days of January when the largest number of unhoused individuals are inside shelters due to the cold — that is the time during which the survey can get the most accurate count possible.

The 3,372 unhoused people counted in the January survey represented a 0.01% increase in the unhoused population as a share of the county’s total population.

The Close to Home 2024 State of Homelessness Report, where the data was shared, said 888 people were “unsheltered,” a term that can refer to those sleeping in encampments, outdoors, or abandoned buildings.

The estimated number of unsheltered people in Bexar County fell 25% over the last five years, though it was 1.6% higher in 2024 than in 2023.

Close to Home Executive Director Katie Wilson said it was a positive sign that homelessness levels stayed relatively flat despite inflation and higher rental prices over the last year.

“When you’re considering how much people are struggling with homelessness across the nation, in San Antonio and Bexar County we’re still able to hold strong and keep things fairly flat year over year,” Wilson said.

One of the biggest successes highlighted in Close to Home’s report was the reduction of unsheltered veterans by 18% compared to 2023 and a 42% decrease in veterans experiencing chronic homelessness.

The report detailed other major improvements made since 2020 in how homelessness was handled within Bexar County.

That included $25 million for permanent supportive housing in the 2022 San Antonio Housing Bond, increased coordination between the city, county, and nonprofit agencies, the establishment of the city’s Homeless Connections Hotline, sustained funding for the city’s Homelessness Diversion fund, and expanded capacity of homeless outreach.

Wilson said funding for permanent supportive housing, which is used for individuals with severe medical or mental health needs, is critical, and that the $25 million from the 2022 Housing Bond isn’t enough to meet their 1,000-unit goal.

“There are 83 units that have been completed, and 393 are in progress [and are] being developed over the next two years,” she said. “And we’re almost out of bond funds.”

To get to 1,000 units, Wilson said they would need another major funding source. “The individuals on our waitlist — they’re sitting there needing that resource today, and that’s over 600 people,” she added.

One key focus area in the last several years of homelessness reduction efforts was reducing family homelessness. But the 2024 PIT found an 11% increase in family homelessness.

Family homelessness levels over the last five years from the PIT Count.
Close to Home 2024 State of Homelessness Report
Family homelessness levels over the last five years from the PIT Count.

The 2021 PIT demonstrated a historic low for family homelessness, which Close to Home’s report said was largely due to the COVID-19 eviction moratorium and high levels of rental assistance.

“We’re struggling a lot with families falling into homelessness who are living in poverty and have emergencies come up, and then they’re being evicted,” Wilson said. “And it’s very difficult once that happens — and they go into an emergency shelter — to get them back out housed when they have that eviction on their record.”

She said that’s why for families, the primary focus is on homelessness prevention. To that end, Wilson said she wants to find a way to bring in outside resources to fund a permanent rental assistance program that could offer some of the support the pandemic-era rental assistance did.

Looking forward to what additional improvements should be made to address homelessness in Bexar County, the report said it would be key to resolve racial and gender disparities in access to different homelessness outreach projects, enhance homelessness education for the general public, longer notice for encampment clearings — also known as “abatements” — for improved outreach, and rapid rehousing.

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