Homelessness drops from record levels in Fort Worth. What’s behind the lower numbers?

There number of people living on the streets of Fort Worth has gone down, according to a report released Wednesday by the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition.

The annual count in January found that 2,390 people were experiencing homelessness. That’s down from a record 2,723 in 2023.

There isn’t one single reason to explain the drop, but coalition executive director Lauren King, speaking at an event Wednesday, pointed to increased investments in housing and other assistance as contributing factors.

The city and Tarrant County have $50 million in the pipeline to build housing for people exiting homelessness, which should add 300 units over the next two years.

“If there’s one takeaway I have for you it’s that housing works,” King said.

She also pointed to a stabilization in rent increases as a reason the numbers may have been lower this year.

Rent is still expensive, but it’s not going up by 10% to 20% the way it has in recent years, King said. Average rents are $1,468 in Dallas-Fort Worth, a 2.9% drop from year ago, according to MRI Apartment Data.

The coalition has also increased the number of landlords it partners with to ensure people with housing vouchers won’t get turned away. A recent study from the Department of Housing and Urban Development found that 78% of Fort Worth landlords rejected tenants who wanted to use federal housing vouchers.

The state also prohibits cities and counties from forcing landlords to accept housing vouchers, but it does make an exception for veterans. The Fort Worth City Council took advantage of this exception when it passed an ordinance at its March 20 meeting protecting veterans using housing vouchers.

The city also allocated $1 million toward a pilot program to target seven areas with high concentrations of homelessness.

This most recent count of Tarrant County’s homeless population is closer to pre-pandemic levels, but is not all the way back, King said.

The increased investment in housing and rental assistance may lead to a further decrease in the annual count of homelessness, she said.

Going forward, the coalition plans to do more research into the factors that lead to someone losing their housing.

“If we really want to impact homelessness, the most efficient and effective way to do that is to prevent people from losing their home in the first place,” King said.