The homeless population in Harris and Fort Bend counties grew by 25 percent this year, according to an annual count by the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County.
The Jan. 31 census found 8,538 men, women and children were homeless this year, compared with 6,819 in 2010. If jail inmates without homes are included, this year’s count is more than 13,000, the coalition said in a report released Monday.
The coalition used a different method this year that led to a more accurate count.
This story is such a mess that it’s hard to know where to begin.
First, it’s highly doubtful the reporter has any special skills at counting homeless people or evaluating methods of counting homeless people, yet the bolded sentence is written in such a way that it appears she evaluated the new method and signed off on its accuracy. It almost certainly should have concluded, “according to the advocacy group” or some such.
Second, because the methodology changed, it’s not quite right to draw conclusions about the actual homeless population increasing from last year. It is accurate to say the new method produced a count 25% higher this year than the old method produced last year. Drawing further conclusions — particularly the conclusions presented as fact in the story — is dicey.
Unsurprisingly, one of Houston’s most prolific derivative newsblogs made similar mistakes in their post on the topic.
(Hat tip to Matt Bramanti for an engaging email conversation about these problems earlier today)