On Wednesday while most of us were busy prepping for the impending snowstorm and trying to decide the best way to get home some folks in our region were trying to figure out how best to stay warm and dry during the storm. Two COG Housing Planners took part in the annual count of the region’s homeless population. Below is Alicia Lewis’ recount of her day participating in Prince George’s County’s count and how meeting Region Forward goals can help reduce the homeless population in metro Washington.
As the afternoon progressed and the weather worsened I could only think about the two gentlemen we’d encountered earlier. What would their walk and/or bus ride to the overnight shelter pick up spot be like? They both were a couple of miles away from the Metro station. To make matters worse the van couldn’t pick them up until 6 p.m. and heavy rain sleet and snow was falling.
As I sit warm and dry within my own home writing this post I can’t help but think of the region’s affordable housing goals. COG’s 21 member jurisdictions pledged that 15 percent of the region’s new housing units would be affordable for lower and moderate income persons. Does supportive and permanent housing for the homeless count? The placement of these facilities near and along well served transportation nodes (another Region Forward goal) would surely benefit the homeless. Are they included in our proposed TOD projects? It would certainly make sense as most if not all of the homeless persons we met were located near and along the region’s major roadways.
While many folks around the region were stuck in traffic on their way home due to the weather the homeless men we’d met had to walk miles in the cold carrying multiple bags in the storm to reach their destination in hopes of having a warm bed for just one evening. I truly hope the County’s sheltered count is greater than its unsheltered count because the money the County may receive would help Keith and the other men and women we weren’t able to count but know who we know are living on the street. I also hope we as a region will proactively work to incorporate services and facilities for the homeless in our shared equitable growth and sustainability plans.
This is part two of Alicia’s report. Read part one here. COG staff is also updating their Facebook page with photos and reactions from the count.
On Monday Alicia’s colleague Sophie will provide comments on her experience during the count and how Region Forward will help reduce the homeless population in metro Washington.