No county hospital, limited shelter space — and homelessness is up in Collin County
That’s according to Housing Forward, a nonprofit that works to address homelessness in Dallas and Collin counties.
Just last month, Housing Forward reported a 4% decrease in homelessness in those counties. That may seem a bit contradictory — but it’s how you count the numbers.
That’s true when looking at Dallas and Collin County together — but separating the numbers tells a different story. Collin County alone saw an increase, with 516 unhoused residents compared to 414 in 2022.
Sarah Kahn is the chief program officer for Housing Forward. She said more than 87% of the population the nonprofit serves live in Dallas County.
“Homelessness is very much an urban problem,” Kahn said.
She said most of the people in Collin County are unhoused because of economic reasons. Shanette Eaden, Plano’s housing and community services manager, said that’s why she’s not surprised Collin County’s homeless population increased.
“When you think about the cost of housing skyrocketing so much, it makes sense,” Eaden said.
Plano, the county’s largest city, had about half of the county’s homeless population with 261 people. Eaden said that’s less than last year, which was 54%.
Plano is where the county’s few emergency shelters are located — Hope’s New Door’s domestic violence shelter, the Muslim Women’s Foundation and City House, a shelter for youth. But there’s no emergency shelter that caters to a general population.
Heather Molsbee is the chief program officer for the Samaritan Inn in McKinney, which provides transitional housing. It has 80 beds. She said it’s challenging to serve the county’s homeless without a general population shelter.
“There is a need for just that basic shelter for those who are experiencing homelessness,” Molsbee said. “The bare minimum at times, and that doesn’t exist.”
She said an emergency shelter is a good place to build trust with unhoused residents, who tend to be more transitory. She said these residents often mistrust the system after being let down, so it takes time to build rapport. That’s why an emergency shelter where people filter in and out for services regularly makes a difference.
There also isn’t a county hospital, something Molsbee said presents another challenge. And Kahn said Housing Forward is struggling to find landlords in the county who will rent to people with housing vouchers.
“It's very, very hard in Collin County where rents are high and the number of affordable units is dwindling,” she said.
Eaden said Plano is working to reduce homelessness, something she said she thinks can be eliminated in the city.
“When you look at the number of homeless in Plano, in comparison with the larger numbers in Dallas, we can address this in our city,” Eaden said.
Volunteers go out once a year on a winter’s night and help cities document the number of people who are sheltered and unsheltered to meet a federal requirement from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
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Caroline Love is a Report For Americacorps member for KERA News.
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