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New report points to worsening homelessness among Rochester children

PCHO outreach worker Chrissy Alessi delivers meals to residents at Peace Village.
PCHO outreach worker Chrissy Alessi delivers meals to residents at Peace Village.

A local street outreach agency recorded a nearly eight-fold increase in homeless children seeking refuge with their parents last year.

The rise in homelessness has overwhelmed shelters and left more families to sleep in their vehicles, according to a report from Person Centered Housing Options.

Some of this is a rebound to pre-pandemic numbers as eviction moratoriums and rent relief programs have expired. But the nonprofit primarily encountered single people and couples then.

What has emerged in its latest report points to a worsening situation. What Nick Coulter, the group’s co-founder, said is a harbinger of what’s to come if rising housing costs continue to outpace wages.

“I don’t want to get into politics, but this is a pure numbers game,” Coulter said. “If you’re going to stop it, you’ve got to do something financially.”

PCHO is a Rochester-based nonprofit organization focused on providing outreach to chronically homeless people, with an end goal of placing people into sustainable long-term housing.

The report’s key statistics show:

  • The organization saw a total of 1,763 calls for service in 2023, an increase of 27% from 2022.  
  • Of those, 72 households were living in their car, an increase of 53% from the previous year.  
  •  Of those the organization serviced, 241 were experiencing street homelessness – a 21% increase from a year prior.  
  • The organization served 47 children experiencing street homelessness with their parents in 2023, up from six the previous year. 

The figures noted by the report align largely with trends in homelessness reported by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which performs “point-in-time" counts of homeless populations nationwide. Point-in-time counts are surveys which count homeless populations on a single night.
Rochester’s 2023 count showed 803 homeless people. Of those, 244, or 30%, were under the age of 18 at the time. That’s an increase of 7% and 37%, respectively, from 2022.

Notably, evictions hit historic lows during 2020 and 2021 due to a statewide moratorium, and Monroe County’s expansion of hotel and motel offerings for shelters kept people off the street. In turn, the 2023 HUD figures align more closely with pre-pandemic years.

In PCHO’s numbers, the organization points largely to rising housing costs in the Rochester area.

“Such elevated living costs can contribute to housing challenges, potentially affecting the local population's ability to secure affordable housing and, consequently, impacting homelessness rates within the region,” the report reads. “The increased year-over-year rent highlights the pressing need for housing solutions and interventions to ensure housing affordability and prevent homelessness in the community.”

Fair market rent is determined by HUD annually. In the Rochester metropolitan area, the fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment in 2024 stood at $1,050, an increase of 10.5% from 2022 and 35.5% from 2020.

“We need to control rental amounts in some way,” Coulter said. “I don’t know what that way looks like.... What I am going to say is that if we don’t do something in those areas, we are going to see more homeless people on the street.”

Gino Fanelli is an investigative reporter who also covers City Hall. He joined the staff in 2019 by way of the Rochester Business Journal, and formerly served as a watchdog reporter for Gannett in Maryland and a stringer for the Associated Press.