Fewer people were homeless in Tennessee before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a federal count that was made public this week.
The “point in time” snapshot captured a 2.8% dip in Tennessee homelessness between January 2019 to January 2020, when 7,256 people were counted. The census is gathered by volunteers who choose a single night to survey city streets, shelters and encampments.
Tennessee’s changes mostly stood in contrast to national trends, which saw homelessness increase — and especially for people living without shelter. The nation also saw little change for unhoused military veterans.
In Tennessee, the overall count went down, and there were 16% fewer unhoused veterans than the previous year, which ranked among the biggest improvements in the nation. Of everyone counted, 62% were sheltered.
The federal report notes that Jackson, Tenn., and the rural western portion of the state had one of the country’s highest proportions of homeless people living unsheltered.
Housing advocates say the annual count has its limitations but describe it as a consistent annual estimate. Figures that capture the impact of the pandemic are yet to be tabulated, but since 2007, Tennessee’s unhoused population has fallen by about a third.