Pandemic restrictions affect Longview homeless count

Homeless Count

LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) - The numbers are in for the Longview homeless count. The good news is the numbers are about two thirds what they were a year ago, but the bad news is those who did the counting believe they did not get an accurate number because of limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chesley Knowles is Programming Manager for Housing Services at Community Healthcore in Longview, but she’s also Chair of the Northeast Texas Homeless Coalition, and was involved in the Longview Homeless count.

“Texas Homeless Network released the point in time count numbers from January. The number this year is 180,” Knowles said.

The point in time was January 28, but Knowles says the COVID-19 pandemic limited accuracy.

“We had to change the way we counted this year. We did not do the unsheltered count,” Knowles said.

And they didn’t go into the shelters either.

“The shelters did the count themselves,” Knowles said.

So to reduce health risks, Knowles feels many homeless were left out.

“The numbers from the previous year, which were 308; was our count for 2020, is probably a more accurate reflection,” Knowles said.

At Newgate Mission in Longview they serve anyone who needs a meal, and some are the homeless according to Executive Director NaTusha Howard. She thinks the number is a good starting point.

“Due to the pandemic I’m sure people were different places than they normally are, or where they would be. And just to get that number, I think it’s a good number, due to everything that was happening out there in the world,” Howard said.

Newgate is funded by donations so Howard feels their funding won’t be affected. But at Community Healthcore, getting a reduction in funding from HUD and Texas Homeless Network is an unknown.

“Everyone knows COVID had a lot to do with the numbers being lower so we’re not anticipating lower funding, but it could happen,” Knowles said.

Knowles thinks homeless numbers could rise if the CDC eviction moratorium isn’t extended again and ends June 30 as announced. But Community Healthcore does have programs in place to help keep a roof over people’s heads.

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