Homelessness in DC much higher than other cities, says survey

WASHINGTON — Despite, or perhaps because of, having four of the richest counties and cities in the country nearby and its own pockets of wealth, the District of Columbia has the highest homeless rate of 32 large cities, more than twice the national average, a recent study finds.

In its Hunger and Homelessness survey, released in December, the U.S. Conference of Mayors determined D.C. has 124 homeless people for every 10,000 residents.

Rates of homelessness range from 11 per 10,000 people in Wichita, Kansas, to D.C.’s 124.

And locally, the problem is growing quickly, with a 34 percent increase in homelessness between 2009 and 2016. New York City had the largest increase during that period, at 49 percent.

Nationwide, homelessness has fallen almost 13 percent in the past seven years, according to the survey. The survey finds the rate of homelessness to be 17 per 10,000 people.

Experts say, The New York Times reports, that the prime reason for the growing problem is the high cost of living in the District. Median home prices in D.C. soared to record highs, The Times said.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has taken steps to combat homelessness, particularly in making shelters available. In the Conference of Mayors report, the District had the lowest percentage of unsheltered homeless among the survey’s 32 cities.

In December, the U.S. Census showed four neighboring jurisdictions — Loudoun, Fairfax, and Howard Counties, as well as the City of Falls Church — are four of the richest in the nation, while D.C. had a median household income of over $70,000.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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