Washington, D.C. – According to an annual report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), there are 11,623 homeless individuals living in the area – a 2.7 percent decrease (or 323 people) from 2014. The report, Homelessness in Metropolitan Washington, contains the results of the 15th annual count of the region’s homeless population—a one day “snapshot” of people living within nine area jurisdictions.
The report also noted a significant increase in the number of formerly homeless persons; on the night of the count, 14,262 people were residing in some form of permanent or permanent supportive housing and are no longer considered homeless. In addition, the number of chronically homeless persons, an individual experiencing long-term or repeated homelessness with a disabling condition, declined by 31 percent between 2011 and 2015.
According to Michael Ferrell, Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director and COG Homeless Services Planning and Coordinating Committee Chairman, the successes highlighted in the report can be attributed to rapidly rehousing at-risk individuals, providing permanent supportive housing to those who are chronically homeless or others with disabling conditions, and a continued focus on prevention.
Six of the nine jurisdictions in the region recorded decreases in the number of persons experiencing homelessness for 2015. Arlington County achieved the greatest percentage decrease over the past year (18 percent). Montgomery County experienced the greatest percent increase in homeless persons since 2014 (23 percent). As in past years, the District of Columbia reported the largest proportion of the region’s homeless population (63 percent).
The report stresses that a “lack of affordable, permanent housing opportunities remains the most significant and persistent obstacle to ending homelessness in our region.” It also points out that although the economy has improved in certain sectors, it has not had an impact on decreasing unemployment and increasing earned income among persons experiencing homelessness.
“The [Point-in-Time] Count is one of many important tools we use to track changes and make decisions,” said Laura Zeilinger, Department of Human Services Director for the District of Columbia. “This data tells us where resources are needed and how to invest in solutions that work.”
The report was compiled by the COG Homeless Services Planning and Coordination Committee and released May 13 at the COG Board of Directors Meeting. Participating jurisdictions are: The City of Alexandria; Arlington County; The District of Columbia; Fairfax County, including data from the city of Falls Church and the City of Fairfax; Frederick City and County; Loudoun County; Montgomery County; Prince George’s County, including data from the City of Bowie; and Prince William County, including data from the City of Manassas and the City of Manassas Park.
The release of the report was covered by several local media outlets, including The Washington Post and WAMU.