Washington, D.C. - Despite the continued economic and foreclosure crisis, homelessness has decreased in the metropolitan Washington region over the past five years, according to a recently released report from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG).
The report, A Regional Portrait of Homelessness: The 2010 Count of Homeless Persons in Metropolitan Washington, analyzes the results of COG's tenth annual point in time enumeration of the region's homeless persons. There were 11,774 people throughout the region who indicated that they were homeless when the enumeration was conducted on January 27, 2010. This figure represents a 1.7 percent decrease from 2009 when a total of 11,982 in the region were homeless, and a 3 percent decrease since 2006.
The report states that the reduction in homelessness in the region was partially due to an increased focus on prevention strategies that provided emergency rental assistance and rapid re-housing or "housing first" programs, which were aided by federal stimulus funds that are set to expire over the next year. The continued expansion of permanent supportive housing programs designed to move people who experience homelessness into stable housing quickly was also a factor in the decline in homelessness in this year's report.
"We must find ways to sustain and enhance rapid re-housing funds," said Michael Ferrell, Chairman of COG's Homeless Services Committee and Executive Director of the District of Columbia Coalition for the Homeless. "Despite our progress, local governments and service providers are still concerned about a large portion of area residents 'at risk' of becoming homeless due to the economy. We need to be prepared to prevent people from becoming homeless."
Between 2006 and 2010, the region added 2,490 permanent supportive housing beds to its year-round homeless facility inventory. This represents a 55 percent increase over five years and corresponds to a national trend of increased usage of housing first programs to reduce homelessness.
Another key finding of the report debunks a common misunderstanding many people have about homeless persons - that they are unemployed. According to this year's enumeration, 40 percent of all homeless adults in families in the region have jobs; while 21 percent of homeless single adults have jobs.
The 2010 enumeration also details a number of subpopulations among the homeless, such as those who suffer from substance abuse, mental and physical health problems, language barriers, domestic violence and other challenges.
The report includes detailed analysis of each jurisdiction surveyed regarding its homeless services and enumeration results.
The annual enumeration is conducted by local area governments and is part of an ongoing effort to monitor and report on the number of people found on the streets, in emergency shelters, in transitional and permanent supportive housing, or otherwise homeless and in need of a safe shelter. The jurisdictions that participated in the count include the District of Columbia; Frederick County; Montgomery County; Prince George's County (including the City of Bowie); Alexandria; Arlington County; Fairfax County (including Falls Church and the City of Fairfax); Loudoun County; and Prince William County (including the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park).
To view the full report, click here.