The Chester County Department of Community Development (DCD) released its 2023 Point-In-Time (PIT) count this week, which shows that 436 people were experiencing homelessness in Chester County on January 25, 2023. This number represents an eight percent increase in homelessness from 2022 when the PIT count was 402.
The PIT count is a manual census of people experiencing sheltered and unsheltered homelessness on one night in January. The rise in Chester County’s PIT count coincides with increases in many cities and communities across the United States.
In a joint statement, Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell, and Michelle Kichline said, “There are many factors that impact homelessness, and Chester County is not immune to them. We are committed to assisting the homeless population in Chester County through our partnership with House America and by working with municipalities, developers, nonprofits, and our state and federal governments to re-house those experiencing homelessness and create more affordable housing options.
“We have dedicated American Rescue Plan Act money and other funds to building 1,000 new affordable housing units over the next ten years, and by the end of this year, 306 will be built,” added the Commissioners.
Other data from the 2023 PIT count showed that 44 percent of those experiencing homelessness in Chester County were people of color, and 25 percent were children. Of the 436 people counted, 29 lived in or slept in places not meant for human habitation.
Dolores Colligan, Director of Chester County DCD, said, “The Department of Community Development and the Chester County Partnership to End Homelessness work diligently to assist anyone experiencing homelessness. The Emergency Utility and Rental program, run through the DCD, has helped more than 6,000 households since 2021. The Eviction Prevention Case Resolution program has seen a significant increase in cases involving landlords and tenants resolved through the Eviction Prevention Court, created in 2020. We encourage anyone to contact our office if they are facing a housing crisis.”
According to the U.S. Census American Community Survey, the median rent in Chester County has increased by 35 percent over the last seven years. In addition to rising rental costs, pandemic-era aid programs that helped keep people housed are winding down or have ended.
Rob Henry, Administrator of the Chester County Partnership to End Homelessness, said, “Recent increases in rental costs have put rentals out of reach for many people in Chester County. As a result, our Point-In-Time count increased for the first time in several years, and people are experiencing homelessness for prolonged periods because they cannot find an affordable rental.”
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires a biennial PIT count of people experiencing homelessness. In Chester County, DCD staff and community volunteers conduct the PIT count annually to understand better local homelessness trends and support efforts to prevent and end homelessness.
The DCD also collects an entire year’s worth of homelessness data in its annual System Performance Report, which in fiscal year 2022 showed a 33 percent decrease in the number of people entering emergency shelters over the past five years, a 39 percent decrease in first-time homelessness in the past year, and a 61 percent increase in the average length of stay in emergency shelters in the past year.