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Saturday, February 28, 2015 |  Madison, WI: -2.0° F  Fair
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January 2013 survey indicates Dane County's homeless population has increased

Credit:Christopher Guess

The number of people without homes in Dane County climbed almost 13% in the last year, according to a "point-in-time" survey taken the night of Jan. 30.

The survey is done twice a year -- once in January and once in July -- at the behest of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Social workers in Dane County counted 718 people in shelters (either emergency or transitional housing) and 99 people sleeping outside, in doorways, cars or tents, according to Sue Wallinger, grants administrator for Madison's Community Development Block Grant office.

In January 2012, there were 647 people in shelters and 77 unsheltered. That makes for a total increase of 93 homeless people, or 13%. The number of unsheltered homeless people grew by 28%.

The count is also up from July 25, 2012, when 716 people were found to be homeless -- 554 in shelters and 162 unsheltered -- an overall 14% increase.

One bright spot in the survey is that there is more shelter space available. Wallinger says there was an increase in transitional housing beds from 299 in 2012 to 322 in 2013 and supportive permanent housing beds, 839 in 2012 to 1,017 in 2013.

"We had more transitional beds, but there were more homeless people that filled them," says Wallinger.

Wallinger can't say for certain why the count is up, but adds "You can surmise the economy is part of that."

It will be several months before HUD reports the national data.

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