Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
How do we know homelessness is a problem in New Braunfels?
Although it is extremely difficult to count the homeless community in a precise way, trends in service demands and annual Point In Time (PIT) Counts give a good snapshot that allows communities to analyze general trends. The Comal County Homeless Coalition has managed the PIT Count since 2009 and notes the following trends:
- The local 2019 PITC revealed that 49% of those surveyed became homeless while living in the county and 44% were homeless more than once in the prior 12 months. Over the last decade, there has been significant growth in the percentage of persons surveyed through the PIT Count who have experienced homelessness more than one time and for longer than 6 months at a time.
- A 2018 United Way Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed (ALICE) survey revealed 37% of households in Comal County struggle to afford the basic cost of living. Learn more about ALICE Households here.
- A 2018 Workforce Housing Study commissioned by the New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce showed 48% of renter-occupied units are housing-cost burdened, and a 2021 update revealed that the problem has not improved.
- Individuals in Comal experiencing mental health crises are increasingly stating that homelessness is a primary or contributing factor to their crisis. (per the Mobile Crisis Outreach Team).
If we offer services won’t that attract more people experiencing homelessness to come to New Braunfels?
People experiencing homelessness who move to new areas do so because they are searching for work, have family nearby or for other reasons not always related to services. A recent national study found that 75% of homeless people are still living in the city which they became homeless.
Locally, 82% of our program participants have lived in our community for at least 6 months, with an average of 11 years and a median of 3 years. If a person seeking help has support systems in another community, we help link them to the individuals, organization and community that can best help them gain housing stability.
Why are people homeless in a community as strong as New Braunfels?
Homelessness is a complex issue that involves both community and individual factors:
- A rapid increase in housing costs in conjunction with growing capacity shortage
- An erosion in the value of the minimum wage and an increase in nonstandard work
- Shrinking work opportunities- falling incomes and/or less secure jobs which offer fewer benefits
- A decline in public assistance
- Lack of affordable healthcare
Individual/Family Environment Factors
- Domestic violence
- Job loss
- Medical bills combined with lack of health insurance
- Health issues- both new health problems and/or chronic
- Losing access to credit
- Mental illness
- Substance addiction disorders and lack of treatment options
- History with the criminal justice system
- History of victimization-child abuse, assault
- Aging out of foster care without an ongoing support system
- Difficulty readjusting to civilian life for veterans
Won’t helping people experiencing homelessness just enable their poor life choices?
Experiencing homelessness is a condition, not a character defect. Lawyers, doctors, accountants, teachers, entrepreneurs, and many others have experienced homelessness. It’s not a lack of ambition or missing desire for a safe and permanent place to live. Many people face the trauma of homelessness with disabling conditions including chronic health conditions and severe mental illness.
Recovering from addiction is difficult for housed people; it is even more difficult for people experiencing the additional trauma of homelessness. Research shows that substance abuse is often a result of homelessness, rather than a cause. Roughly 32% of individuals experiencing homelessness suffer from addiction to drugs and alcohol, a figure approximately 20% higher than reported abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs by the general population. Homelessness, which is usually accompanied by loss of income, isolation, and loss of self-worth, drives people to substance abuse. It is often mistakenly assumed that alcoholics and drug users lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop using drugs simply by choosing to change their behavior.
Are we still safe in our neighborhoods?
Housing is essential to household and neighborhood stability. It all comes down to the fact that none of us function very successfully without a home base. At the neighborhood and community development level, we can’t afford to ignore the problem, which presents a negative image for our community, symbolizes a collective failure as a society, and also represents lost potential for an individual who might contribute to our community in important ways if given a chance.
A person who is homeless is no more likely to be a criminal than a person who is housed, with a couple of legal exceptions. They are more likely to be charged with trespassing, loitering, or camping ordinances just by the circumstance of being unhoused. The reality is that most spend their time and resources trying to survive and improve their situation.
Evidence tells us that people who are homeless can find stability and healing when provided empowering supports focused on housing. Known as Housing First, this approach acknowledges the complexities of addiction, trauma, and the challenges that come with experiencing homelessness. It also acknowledges that it can be very difficult to successfully address challenges while living on the streets or in an unsafe and unstable environment.
What about sex offenders?
Our programs will always comply with current state statutes. The roughly 82,000 registered sex offenders across the US are more carefully tracked and controlled than any other classification. They are obliged to live under terms of release as determined by a court, must regularly report to law enforcement about where they are staying, and are under threat of more stringent reclassification or re-confinement if they break these terms. Access to a shelter or housing is a positive factor associated with offenders meeting the requirements of their release, while banning them forces them into a more invisible life on the streets which is associated with a greater likelihood of recidivism.
What Can We do to End Homelessness in our Community?
Homelessness is a community social and economic problem that requires a COORDINATED COMMUNITY SOLUTION. Ending homelessness is possible if enough of us – government, businesses, nonprofits, neighborhoods, healthcare providers and hospitals, local law enforcement, jails, and court systems, schools, churches, and caring individuals – work together to make it happen.
At the same time, we must strengthen our ability to PREVENT HOMELESSNESS in the first place by ensuring an adequate array of:
- Safe and affordable housing
- Health and behavioral health resources
- Employment opportunities
- Financial literacy/money management education
- Affordable child care
- Legal assistance
Prevent Homelessness | United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH)