On Wednesday, January 28—with temperatures expected to be below freezing—the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ (COG) is conducting its ninth annual enumeration of the region’s homeless population. In addition to the count, a survey is conducted to determine where homeless persons reside, in which jurisdiction they have received supportive services, and for how long have they stayed at those support facilities.
COG’s Homeless Services Committee, area governments and nonprofit organizations will use this valuable information as they work on reducing homelessness in the region through policy-based initiatives specifically focused on the homeless population in areas such as housing, health, education and employment services. In 2008, COG counted 11,752 homeless persons, a number that has stayed relatively consistent over the past three years.
“This year’s count will inform planners on how the economic crisis and housing downturn may have affected the number of homeless persons in the District of Columbia, suburban Maryland, and Northern Virginia,” 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.
Both COG’s Homeless Services Committee and the 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 a permanent residence or 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 later this year.