Homelessness is up in DC, but still improved from pre-COVID landscape

The District witnessed a more than 11% increase in the city’s homeless population in the past year, but officials noted some positives based on its most recent census.

The Point in Time count taken in January showed a 10.2% increase in homelessness among single people and 12.1% increase among families compared to the 2022, according to a Friday press release from the city’s Department of Human Services (DHS).

However, the department said that the numbers are an improvement from where the District was prior to the count taken just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, DHS noted that total number of people experiencing homeless has dropped by 23% since 2020, and the number of families without shelter has decreased by 50% since then as well.

Agency director Laura Green Zeilinger said that the District’s most recent count may indicate some positive trends, but “our analysis leads to a clear call to action.”

“We are making investments in outreach, prevention and diversion services, shelter renovations and supportive services, while maintaining investments in the housing assistance people need to exit homelessness,” Zeilinger said.

DHS pointed out that this year’s count also may include some people and families who were undercounted in past years.

The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness conducted the count for D.C. on Jan. 25.

The count came just weeks before the clearing of a homeless encampment in McPherson Square. The clearing of about 70 people, just blocks from the White House, prompted protests and criticism that the District was putting people behind the appearance of the city.

The census is a requirement for all cities receiving federal funding to manage homelessness. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s Homeless Services Planning and Coordinating Committee will present the numbers to its board of directors on May 10.

Dan Friedell

Dan Friedell is a digital writer for WTOP. He came to the D.C. area in 2007 to work as digital editor for USATODAY.com, and since then has worked for a number of local and national news organizations.

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