The number of people experiencing homelessness in the D.C. area is the lowest since the region started keeping track in 2001.
The 2020 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count of Homeless Persons report from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments includes data collected in January from nine area jurisdictions.
The count of 9,763 does not reflect a big change over the past year, though.
The 31-person decline comparing 2019 to 2020 is so little that it is noted in the report as a change of zero percent, but the Council of Government’s Homeless Services Committee Co-Chair, Kim Ball, said it reflects a positive trend.
“We’re on the right track,” said Ball, who is the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services Homeless Services Administrator.
Over the past five years, the overall count of people experiencing homelessness is down by 20%. Other breakdowns of the 2016-2020 data:
- 13% fewer chronically homeless
- 14% fewer homeless veterans
- 42% fewer families are homeless
On the number of families transitioning into permanent housing, Ball said, “That’s a huge number. And of that 42%, 59% of that is children.”
“In general, this was a very positive and wonderful enumeration. But it was pre-COVID, so a lot of that may change,” Ball said.
It’s expected that homelessness will grow when pandemic-related eviction prohibitions expire.
Noting other areas of concern, Ball said many working poor still cannot afford a home.
By jurisdiction, employed adults in homeless families are as follows:
- 24% Arlington County, Virginia
- 26% D.C.
- 48% Prince George’s County, Maryland
- 50% Alexandria, Virginia
- 54% Montgomery County, Maryland
- 57% Fairfax County, Virginia
- 64% Frederick County, Maryland
- 69% Prince William County, Virginia
- 95% Loudoun County, Virginia
African Americans, who make up 25% of the region’s population, are disproportionately affected by homelessness. During the Point-In-Time count, 73% identified as black or African American.
Ball said that when she is out on the streets or in area homeless shelters, she sees that inequity.
“The racial disparity with housing and homelessness saddens me tremendously,” Ball said. “There is really no expression I have that could truly illustrate or demonstrate my frustration that I have to see this on a day-to-day basis in our homeless system.”
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