May 16, 2024 - News

Homelessness in D.C. ticks up for second straight year

Illustration of an arrow pointing up on a tent.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Homelessness in D.C. increased for the second straight year, particularly among families.

Why it matters: D.C. is simultaneously facing cuts to social services and housing programs because of a tight city budget and the ending of federal pandemic aid.

By the numbers: Homelessness is up 14% compared to 2023, according to an annual count in January.

  • Homelessness among families increased 39%, notable considering that the city has made strides in driving that category down in the past decade. An increase of 40 families is "largely a result" of allowing more people into the system, including survivors of domestic violence, according to the Bowser administration.

Context: Both total and family homelessness remain below pre-pandemic levels.

The latest: Four encampments are expected to be cleared this week.

  • Three are in Northwest and one is in Southeast.
  • San Martin Memorial Park and Whitman Park will be cleared on Thursday, the National Park Service told Axios.
  • "By providing notice of the closure on October 18, 2023, we have provided time for social service providers and unsheltered individuals to engage and explore options for safe interim and permanent housing," NPS spokesperson Michael Litterst said.

Friction point: Many times homeless people who are removed from one encampment end up in another tent somewhere else.

  • To that point, the National Homelessness Law Center says: "Most of these folks were previously residing in McPherson Square, and were displaced without housing or support services."

Zoom out: Regionwide, homelessness has worsened since the pandemic. An end to COVID-era aid, such as eviction moratoriums and federal emergency rental assistance, has led to a 3% increase from 2020 to 2024, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

  • "The number of individuals served by rapid re-housing, supportive housing, and other permanent housing solutions reached an all-time high in 2024," the group said.

The fine print: The District's annual "point-in-time" count is described as a snapshot of the homelessness issue on one day every winter, where individuals living on the streets and in homeless services programs are tallied.

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