According to a 2018 report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), there are 10,480 persons experiencing homelessness in the area—a 6 percent decrease (or 648 people) from 2017. The report, Homelessness in Metropolitan Washington, contains the results of the 18th annual census, a one-day snapshot, of the region’s residents experiencing homelessness within nine area jurisdictions.
The report was released May 9 at the COG Board of Directors meeting, and demonstrates the region’s “steady, measurable progress in providing shelter and wrap around services to homeless individuals and families.”
The number of formerly homeless persons continued its positive upward trend in 2018. On the night of the count, 21,882 people were residing in some form of permanent or permanent supportive housing and were no longer considered homeless. For the second year in a row, the number of families experiencing homelessness decreased, down 15 percent from 2017.
Source: Homelessness in Metropolitan Washington (COG)
“As we heard today, permanent housing is the ultimate goal to reduce homelessness,” said Matt Letourneau, COG Board Chairman and Loudoun County Supervisor. “It is encouraging that we are continuing to make progress, but we clearly have more work to do as a region.”
Five of the nine participating metropolitan Washington jurisdictions recorded decreases in the number of persons experiencing homelessness from 2017 to 2018. The four remaining jurisdictions recorded minor increases over this time.
The District of Columbia experienced the largest decrease in the number of persons experiencing homelessness, counting 569 fewer individuals. Prince George’s County achieved the greatest percentage decrease at 10 percent of its homeless population (or 54 individuals). The largest increase in persons counted was in Fairfax County (23 individuals), while Frederick County experienced the largest percentage increase (19 percent).
“We have to figure out a way to work collectively to assist those homeless persons crossing through our jurisdictions,” said Robert White, COG Board Vice Chairman and District of Columbia Councilmember. “We need to be able to provide residents with services regardless of where they are in the region.”
For the five-year period of 2014-2018, the region reduced the number of individuals experiencing homelessness by 12 percent. Eight of nine jurisdictions reported a decline over this five-year period.
Several challenges remain for the region and its efforts to end homelessness. Despite downward trends in past years, the region recorded an eight percent increase (33 individuals) in the number of veterans experiencing homelessness this year, mirroring the national trend. Similarly, the number of chronically homeless persons increased by two percent (or 38 persons). However, despite these one-year increases, the region overall has reduced the incidence of veteran homelessness by 25 percent and the number of chronically homeless persons by nine percent since 2014.
“We are prepared to show up to do what needs to be done,” said Derrick L. Davis, COG Board of Directors Vice Chairman and Prince George’s County Council Member. “Even one person experiencing homelessness in our region—whether in Prince George’s, the District, or Loudoun County is too many.”
According to the report, a lack of affordable, permanent housing opportunities and stagnating wages for less-educated workers remain the most significant and persistent obstacles to ending homelessness in the region. It calls on jurisdictions to continue efforts to reach out, assess, and house unsheltered homeless persons, increase its permanent supportive housing, rapid rehousing and other permanent housing inventory, and provide training opportunities to low-skilled and low-wage workers to “create ladders of opportunity” to higher-paying jobs. Affordable housing for all income levels must also be available across the region in order to realistically reduce and eliminate homelessness.
The report was compiled by the COG Homeless Services Planning and Coordination Committee. Participating jurisdictions are: the City of Alexandria; Arlington County; 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.
MORE: Homelessness in Metropolitan Washington: Results and Analysis from the Annual Point in Time Count of Persons Experiencing Homelessness