Washington, D.C./ Politics & Govt
AI Assisted Icon
Published on May 14, 2024
Washington D.C. Reports 14% Rise in Homelessness, City Invests in Solutions Amid National UptickSource: Unsplash/ Tom Rumble

Homelessness is on the rise in the nation's capital, with the latest data revealing a 14% jump from the previous year. The District's Department of Human Services (DHS) disclosed the results of the 2024 Point-In-Time (PIT) Count, which is an annual survey that captures the number of individuals living without stable housing. Conducted on January 24, the latest count indicated a notable increase, despite still being 12% lower when compared to the figures prior to the COVID-19 crisis in 2020, as reported by the DHS.

In a distressing trend, the census documented that homelessness among families surged by 39%, albeit remaining 30% below the levels seen back in 2020. On a somewhat positive note, homelessness among unaccompanied individuals rose by a smaller margin of 6%, mirroring the 2020 situation. DHS Director Laura Zeilinger spoke on the findings, "The 2024 count is the second consecutive year that the District saw an increase in homelessness. While the data points to opportunities to evolve our system to today’s realities, our strategies are still highly effective," as told to dc.gov.

Zeilinger further emphasized the successes and future commitments of their strategies: "Across the last two years we counted a higher percentage of people experiencing homelessness for the first time which both points to the need for earlier interventions as well as our success at supporting those who have experienced long-term homelessness to regain housing. We are committed to continue to build on and invest in proven solutions, and innovative approaches to enhance our system for District residents facing homelessness," according to dc.gov.

To combat this persistent issue, the Mayor's Fiscal Year 2025 budget proposal includes significant funding aimed at initiatives such as the $18.9 million Career Mobility Action Plan (Career MAP), slated to maintain 500 families in stable housing conditions and support their career advancements. An additional $13.3 million has been proposed to operate non-congregate bridge housing, which offers a private alternative to traditional shelters, and an investment of $500,000 towards a Peer Case Management Institute operated in conjunction with Howard University. The city is also looking to funnel $148.4 million into shelter renovations and rebuilding, aiming to provide a respectful and clean reprieve for the unhoused.

When placed in the larger national context, the District's trends appear to go against the grain. Hikes in homelessness are a troubling national trend, with some major US cities seeing a 52.7% increase from 2022 to 2023. In contrast, the District registered just an 11.6% increase during the same period and had achieved the largest percentage decrease in homelessness nationwide from 2020 to 2022, at 30.9%. These numbers were buoyed by the city's proactive measures, including federal investments in housing retention and the implementation of an eviction moratorium.

The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness (TCP) conducted the PIT count on the District's behalf, a necessary step for jurisdictions receiving federal homeless assistance funding. This single-day count provides crucial insights into the state of homelessness and the effectiveness of current strategies, thereby informing future programming and interventions.