Living in shelters, on the streets or in parks, the number of people experiencing homelessness in the D.C. region has increased this year compared to last.
But the trends over the past five years offer some encouragement, according to the latest report from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
The regional group’s one-day count conducted on Jan. 25 found a total of 8,944 people experiencing homelessness in the D.C. region.
“The count is a snapshot of literally homeless single adults, families with children and unaccompanied youth living in shelters, transitional housing programs or in an unsheltered location on the night of PIT (or Point in Time count),” said Elisabeth Young, D.C. Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness Deputy Chief and chair of COG’s committee on Homeless Services.
Unsheltered describes people staying in the streets or parks, cars or campsites within the region, Young added.
Young told the council’s board of directors, at its monthly meeting Wednesday, that it is noteworthy that the number of homelessness rose in each of the nine jurisdictions.
|City of Alexandria
|Prince George’s County
|Prince William County
“So that is rare and notable. Usually, we might see a mix of increases or reductions from jurisdiction to jurisdiction … in any given year. So, I think that this really highlights that this is a regionwide trend,” Young said.
The count also found that children represent 61% of all persons who were in homeless families in the 2023 count.
African Americans disproportionately occupy the ranks of homelessness in the Washington region, according to the count.
Young told the board:
“Both single adults and adults and family are most likely to report their racial identity as Black or African American … Among single adults, 71% experiencing homelessness responded that they identified as Black, compared to the region’s population, where only 25% of persons identify as Black or African American. You know, the root cause of this disproportionality of people of color in the homeless services system is, simply put, a legacy of institutional and systemic racism that impacts our communities to this day.”
The board was told that this year’s single-day count, unlike last year’s, which remained under the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, as well as local health department guidance, more closely resembled counts held in years before the pandemic.
The report also found some improvements against “chronic homelessness,” those either continuously homeless for a year or more or experiencing repeated episodes of homelessness over five years. The number of persons experiencing chronic homelessness dropped 4% in the past five years.
“The significant number of people that we’ve placed in some form of permanent housing has really constrained the incidence of homelessness in the region and has helped prevent it from growing unchecked since 2019,” Young said.