Home   |   About Bucks   |   Site Map     Twitter Facebook

2020 News

Annual PIT Count: Homelessness Drops While Housing Crisis Needs Increase

March 4, 2020

Contact: Jeffrey Fields, Director of Housing Services, 215.348.6413, jsfields@buckscounty.org

Homelessness continues to decrease in Bucks County, even as the number of people seeking help with a homelessness crisis remains on the rise, according to preliminary results released this week from an annual census conducted by the county. 

The county’s once-a-year, federally mandated “Point in Time” (PIT) Count, conducted January 29, found 7 percent fewer persons experiencing homelessness than were found during last year’s count, Jeffrey S. Fields, director of the Bucks County Department of Housing Services, told the county commissioners at their meeting today.

“It is the lowest PIT count ever recorded for the county since it began in 2003,” Fields said, “so we are trending in a positive direction.” IMG_9781

The decrease was noted despite an expanded PIT count effort that captured more households living in hotels and motels with non-profit assistance.

The preliminary PIT count, performed this year by 25 community volunteers and compiled by the county, is reported each year to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It identified 333 people – 121 of them children – in emergency shelters, transitional housing, hotels, motels or outdoors in Bucks County.

Of these, 46 were sleeping in Code Blue temporary shelters for the night, 30 were sleeping outdoors or other places not meant for human habitation, and 257 were sleeping in emergency shelters, transitional housing units, or hotels/motels paid for by charitable organizations.

Since 2017, Bucks County has seen an overall 30 percent decrease in the PIT count, and a 57 percent decrease in the street homeless count.

County officials attribute this decrease to several factors, including:

  • Increased coordination among all providers of homeless services to ensure the most vulnerable households receive assistance.
  • Flexible Funding to implement best practices that assist households in avoiding becoming homeless or to quickly exit homelessness.
  • The addition of dedicated Street Outreach workers to engage with and connect unsheltered homeless persons to housing programs and other needed supports; and
  • Creating Housing Locator positions to help high-barrier families and individuals more quickly locate safe and affordable housing.
  • Additional staffing for the Housing Link Call Center, Case Management to work with families experiencing homelessness, and increased funds for rental assistance.

“Bucks County has identified the resources, roles and routes necessary to move people into housing,” said Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, chair of the Bucks County Commissioners. “We should see numbers continue tracking downward. This will allow us to focus efforts on increasing affordable housing throughout the county.”

Many of the changes listed above were made possible through the support of the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE), administered by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA), as well as the Home4Good Program through the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh, particularly Customers Bank, Fidelity Savings of Bucks County, and QNB Bank.

“There is positivity but there remains a lot of work to be done,” Fields said “I don’t want to paint too rosy of a picture because ultimately we need the number to be zero.”

While progress continues in improving the homeless service delivery system, the number of families and individuals who call the Bucks County Housing Link for a housing crisis continues to grow.  In 2019, the Bucks County Housing Link received 6,547 calls, a 10% increase from 2018. 

The shortage of affordable housing in the county exacerbates this trend as persons sleeping on the street or in emergency shelters have trouble finding housing. The Bucks County Housing Locators assist households in these situations in finding safe and appropriate housing rentals, but availability is in short supply.

There is tremendous need for additional landlords willing to work with and rent to housing program participants. In the last 12 months, the Housing Locators have assisted 89 households with locating housing, with a 97% success rate of remaining housed and not returning to homelessness.  PIT slide

Consider the example of David, a program participant:

David lived in his van for two years. He began to work with the Bucks County Opportunity Council (BCOC) Street Outreach team after fainting at BCOC’s Bristol Fresh Connect site, which that provides fresh fruits and vegetables to those in need.

Before becoming homeless, David worked in electronics for 20 years and owned a landscaping business for 10 years before suffering an injury. He never had drug or alcohol issues, but has struggled with depression throughout his life.

Like many who are homeless, David also contended with poor diet and the resulting health issues that can cause. Since connecting with BCOC, David has found full-time employment with the help of the Bucks County Career Link and has been enrolled in BCOC’s Wheelz to Work program to obtain reliable transportation.  The Housing Locators assisted David with finding an apartment and he moved into his own unit on Jan. 1, after almost three years of street homelessness. 

“When we talk about ending homelessness, it’s not a matter of never having an episode of homelessness ever occur…,” Fields said. “The key is that we help people to quickly end the episode of homelessness and move back into permanent housing, and we’ve had a lot of success with that.”

Housing success stories like David’s are not possible without caring landlords who partner with the Housing Link every day. Renting a unit to someone who has experienced an episode of homelessness is one of the biggest differences one can make in improving someone’s life, Fields said.

He urged any landlords interested in learning more about renting to housing program participants, and the supports provided while doing so, to please contact 215-589-5773.