The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ (COG) is conducting its eighth annual enumeration of the region’s homeless population today. In 2007, COG tallied 11,762 homeless persons in the National Capital Region and 4,696 formerly homeless individuals who resided in some form of permanent supportive housing, which was the first decline in three years. In addition to the count, homeless persons are given a survey to determine where they reside, in which jurisdiction they have received supportive services, and for how long have they stayed at those support facilities.
Results of this year’s survey will also inform area planners on the effects of the housing downturn and foreclosures in the region. Statistics from the Arlington County Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development show that nearly 20% of all home loans in the region are high cost, subprime loans. The region’s unemployment levels have not increased and the U.S. Labor Department said the number of workers filing new claims for jobless benefits fell last week for a fourth-straight week.
“The enumeration and its subsequent report will give us a sense of whether homelessness is growing or decreasing in the region,” said Michael Ferrell, chair of COG’s Homeless Services Planning and Coordinating Committee the Committee and Executive Director of the DC Coalition for the Homeless. “It also helps jurisdictions with strategic planning initiatives, particularly with housing, health, education and employment services.”
COG’s Homeless Services Committee will use the new data as it works on reducing homelessness in the District of Columbia, suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia through policy-based initiatives specifically focused on the homeless population. Both the Committee and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development emphasize livable wages and supportive services that would enable homeless families and individuals to start toward the final goal of permanent homeownership.
COG’s annual enumeration provides a “snapshot” of homeless persons, and is not intended as a scientific count of the population trend over time. Until the regional enumeration began in 2001, it was not possible to aggregate data on homelessness in the region with any degree of confidence. Results of the enumeration will be included in a report to the COG Board of Directors in June.