Updated Apr 21, 2022 - News

Homelessness drops 13.7% from 2021 in D.C.

Illustration of the dotted outline of a house key, but no house key.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Homelessness in D.C. dropped 13.7% between 2021 and 2022, Mayor Bowser announced Thursday. This is the sixth consecutive year that homelessness has decreased, but a smaller decline than the 19.9% drop between 2020 and 2021. 

Why it matters: The numbers, which come from the point-in-time count, an annual tally of people sleeping on the streets on a single cold night in January, help inform the city’s homelessness policy. 

Between the lines: Bowser’s administration has made ending homelessness a priority, but the pandemic has derailed some of those plans.

  • While the city has made significant progress in reducing family homelessness over the past five years, it’s had a harder time helping individuals find homes. 
  • A pilot program to close encampments and house some people with one-year leases that began last year has been met with both praise and criticism

By the numbers: On a single January night, 4,410 people were counted as homeless, compared to 5,111 people in January 2021. 

  • Family homelessness dropped 14%. 
  • Individual homelessness, which saw only a 1.9% decline between 2020 and 2021, dropped 12%. 
  • Chronic homelessness — when a person with a disability has been homeless for more than a year — dropped 26% for families and 22% for single adults. 

Yes, but: Significant disparities persist. In 2021, 86% of people experiencing homelessness were Black and the median age was 52.

  • The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, which administers the count, attributed some of the city’s progress last year to federal pandemic-related action. 

What they’re saying: D.C. Department of Human Services director Laura Zeilinger tells Axios that pandemic rent relief programs did play a role, but said D.C. was “trending in the right direction long before the pandemic was even something we could imagine.”

  • Overall, the city has reduced homelessness by 47% since 2016. 

What’s next: The mayor’s 2023 budget would invest $31 million to add 500 permanent housing units for individuals, 260 units for families, and 10 units for youth—which Zeilinger says would fully fund the city’s plan to end homelessness. That plan has never been fully funded.

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