COG's sixth annual Homeless Enumeration Report provides an updated “snapshot” of the region’s homeless population.
The survey found that the number of people who are homeless rose very slightly for a sixth straight year, while many of them are finding their way into programs that help solve the problems that lead to homelessness. The number of homeless people in metropolitan Washington rose from 11,419 in 2005 to 12,085 in 2006. Across the region, slightly less than three people out of every one thousand were homeless on the date the survey was taken.
“As large as the number is in this report is, it is not so daunting when we consider that it means less than 3-in-1,000 of all people living in the region are homeless, and this is a problem we can solve,” said Stephen Cleghorn, an author of the report and member of the Homeless Services Planning and Coordinating Committee. “In the past two years we have added 1,000 beds in permanent housing for formerly homeless persons. We are going in the right direction, but we need to do much more in moving individuals and families into the supportive housing that is a vital part of the solution to ending homelessness.”
In concert with a federal initiative to end homelessness by 2012, the region’s jurisdictions are working to reduce the number of homeless individuals and families by increasing the number of permanent supportive housing units available. This year’s report shows that since 2004, the percentage of persons in permanent housing – meaning they still rely on supportive services but are in stable settings – has risen from 23.6 percent to 26.5 percent.
The report also shows that ten percent of the homeless population is consuming more than 50 percent of available public resources. Chronically homeless adults comprise about one-half of all adults in emergency shelters at any given time but account for just ten percent of all homeless people, including those living in shelters or transitional housing. The term “chronically homeless” refers to those who are continuously without a home for at least one year.
Until the regional enumeration began in 2001, it was not possible to aggregate data on homelessness in the region with any degree of confidence. This year’s report is based on a one-day count of the region’s homeless population conducted on January 25 in the area’s nine major jurisdictions.