District of Columbia’s homeless population has significantly increased over the decade

The District of Columbia may have seen a decrease in people experiencing homelessness from 2016 to 2017. But according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) recent 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, D.C.’s homeless population has grown significantly over the last decade.

From 2007 to 2017, the number of people experiencing homelessness in D.C. increased by 2,153 people, or 40.5 percent. Based on AHAR data, D.C.’s absolute increase was the third largest among the states over the 10-year timeframe.

Each year, jurisdictions across the U.S. count the number of residents experiencing homelessness on a single night in January, including those sheltered and unsheltered, to determine the size of their homeless populations These point-in-time (PIT) counts for each jurisdiction are compiled by HUD into AHAR.

Here are some of the other key findings regarding D.C.’s homeless population from the 2017 AHAR:

From 2007 to 2017, D.C. experienced a 142.7 percent increase in the number of homeless people in families with children. Among the states, the District experienced the third-largest absolute increase over the decade in its number of homeless people in families with children, with an increase of 2,287 people. On the flip side, D.C. also had one of the largest decreases in the nation – 777 people – in this demographic from 2016 to 2017.

Chronic homelessness is rife in the District of Columbia. Forty-one percent of homeless individuals in D.C. in 2017 were chronically homeless, meaning they had a disability and had been continuously homeless for one year or more. D.C. and Long Beach, Calif. were tied for the highest rates of chronic homelessness in major cities in 2017. But since 2007, D.C. has had decreases in chronic homelessness among individuals.

Veteran homelessness decreased in D.C. Even though veteran homelessness increased in the nation from 2016 to 2017, it decreased in D.C. and 36 states.

The total homeless population in 2017 was 7,473 in D.C. The majority of homeless people in D.C. (3,890 people) are in families with children.

While there has been some progress in combating homelessness in D.C., the long-term growth in the homeless population points to the need for more innovative solutions to help people off the street.

This fight starts with private businesses increasing their engagement with homelessness by hiring ready-to-work homeless individuals and helping them find a home. This is happening in the multifamily industry, where the nonprofit Shelters to Shutters partners with more than more than 20 apartment management companies to place homeless individuals in onsite, entry-level jobs and provide them with housing at the same communities at which they work. Since its founding in 2014, S2S has moved more than 100 people out of homelessness in markets throughout the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, South and Texas.

The fight to end homelessness in D.C. and across the country is a challenging one. But it can be successful when the private sector comes together with nonprofits to implement innovative solutions like the one in place in the apartment industry.


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