2011 Cambridge Homeless Census Report


Central Square photo by Bob Coe.

On the last Wednesday of January 2011, hundreds of communities across the country conducted their annual homeless census as required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This was the 12th year that the cities of Cambridge and Somerville jointly carried out the census. Municipal staff completed the count of sheltered and transitionally housed persons. Seven teams that followed a series of prescribed routes through the two cities during the pre-dawn hours accomplished the survey of unsheltered men and women. The teams, composed of a mix of homeless program staff and volunteers, were led primarily by street outreach workers from CASPAR’s First Step program, with radio and emergency backup from Professional Ambulance and Cambridge Multi-Service Center staff.

According to Assistant City Manager for Human Services Ellen Semonoff, the 2011 census total of 346 homeless individuals (adults not in families) in Cambridge was comprised of a street count of 52 individuals, a shelter count of 214 and 80 in transitional housing. The night of January 27 through the early hours of January 28 followed a blizzard on January 26. Street counts tend to vary with weather conditions, with this count of 52 falling below the count of 70 in 2010 when the weather was good. The shelter count is also influenced by weather, with more individuals seeking indoor accommodations in cold or inclement weather. Both the shelter and transitional housing portions are most significantly affected by availability of funding for program beds. The 2011 shelter count for individuals went up to 214 in relation to cold weather, compared to 193 in 2010 when the weather was milder.

This year’s census counted 24 families in shelter and 20 in transitional programs. The overall number of homeless families fell from 82 to 44 because of the state’s decision to discontinue placements of homeless families, including from other communities, in Cambridge motel units. Families placed in motels were included in the shelter count in past years.

When all persons in families with children, single individuals and persons in households without children were added together, the 2011 grand total was 471, down 15.7% from the 2010 total of 559.

Ms. Semonoff added, “Some significant descriptive Cambridge numbers are not part of the census itself. In 2010, the number of formerly homeless individuals in HUD-funded Permanent Supported Housing (housing with services available) was 209; for families the total was 17 persons living in 11 families. While the census did include two formerly homeless families placed in housing with Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program (HPRP) stimulus funding from HUD, it did not reflect that 196 families and 99 individuals were prevented from losing their rental housing units through HPRP monies since the program began in August 2009.”

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