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The number of people experiencing homelessness in Missouri decreased over the past five years; however, the condition increased for many communities in 2018.

The data region that includes Cole County increased about 8 percent for the year.

The Missouri Housing Development Commission recently released its annual 2019 Missouri Statewide Homelessness Study. The report shows over five years, from 2014-18, there was an overall decrease of 18 percent in homelessness. And it shows the changes have slowed recently.

Data was collected in January, well before the May 22 tornado that devastated low-income housing in Cole and Miller counties.

Anecdotes suggest homelessness has increased locally since the tornado raged through more than 30 miles of Central Missouri.

Brian Vogeler, director of The Salvation of Army of Jefferson City's Center of Hope, said the shelter has remained at capacity (31 beds) since the storm.

Additionally, the center opens "cold cots" for homeless people to use when overnight temperatures are forecast to drop below 35 degrees Fahrenheit. More than a dozen additional people are using the service nightly, Vogeler said.

The annual "point in time" counts identified 6,037 people in the state experiencing homelessness in 2017 and 5,883 in 2018, a change of 154 (about 2.5 percent).

The point in time count is done on a single night and is an unduplicated count of people in a community who are experiencing homelessness. It includes sheltered and unsheltered populations.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires communities receiving federal funds from the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program annually count all sheltered people in the last week of January, according to endhomelessness.org. Tallies of unsheltered people are required every other year, although most communities do those annually.

The 2018 drop in Missouri was bolstered by significant reductions in the St. Louis area — including several counties — where the total decline was 445 people.

The study divides Missouri into eight separate regions: St. Louis County; St. Louis City; St. Charles, Warren and Lincoln counties; Greene, Christian and Webster counties; Jasper and Newton counties; Andrew, Buchanan and DeKalb counties; Jackson and Wyandotte counties; and the overall balance of the state (Balance), which includes Cole County.

The "We All Count: 101 County Homeless Survey" is conducted annually in the Balance. HUD funding is tied to the number of people found.

Declines in St. Louis and surrounding counties were mostly offset by upticks in the Kansas City area (167 increase) and in the Balance (101 increase).

The Balance accounts for 23 percent of the state's homeless population. Statewide, about 40 percent of the homeless population is black, while 54 percent is white, according to the report.

Overall, only about 12 percent of Missouri is black and 83 percent is white, according to U.S. Census data. About 20 percent of homeless people in the Balance are black, while 74 percent are white.

Veterans experiencing homelessness decreased in the Balance from 122 to 112. But chronic homelessness — in which people have experienced homelessness for at least a year or repeatedly while struggling with a disabling condition such as a serious mental illness, substance use disorder or physical disability — increased slightly, from 245 individuals to 250.

On the web:

The full report can be viewed at mhdc.com/ci/index.htm.

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