The Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments has just released preliminary figures from the homeless counts conducted in late January. We’ll get more details next month when the final report is issued.
But even the preview shows that the District of Columbia, like the region as a whole, still faces a rising tide of literally homeless people, i.e., those in shelters, transitional housing and “places not meant for human habitation” like streets, parks and bus stations.
And the increase is still driven by families with children. According to the January 2011 count:
- The total number of homeless people in the District registered virtually no change — 6,546, as compared to 6,539 in 2010.
- But the number of those people who were in families increased by 265 to a total of 2,688. This is 852 more than in 2008, when the recession had just set in.
- The number of homeless children in families increased from 1,535 in 2010 to 1,620. This is about two and a third times more than in 2008.
- The number of homeless families as a whole rose to 858 — 50 more than in 2010 and 287 more than in 2008.*
In short, family homelessness in the District has increased by nearly 32% in the last three years.
The increase probably would have been even greater if the District hadn’t had federal stimulus funds for homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing.
And there could well have been more homeless families on the streets had the District not been able to supplement its local homeless services funds with stimulus funds for its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
The DC Fiscal Policy Institute reports that most of the stimulus funds have been spent. And the District won’t get more federal funds earmarked for support of its permanent supportive housing program.
Yet Mayor Gray proposes to cut local funding for homeless services by $11 million. He also wants an additional $2.3 million cut in the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which has kept some low-income households from needing homeless services.
The District is already denying shelter to families who’ve got no place to stay. It’s a good bet there will be more of them if the Council approves the mayor’s proposals for further cuts in TANF cash assistance and the phase-out of the Interim Disability Assistance program.
So the Council’s got a lot of work to do. And so do we because it won’t do what’s needed to shore up homeless services — let alone bend the family homelessness curve — unless it hears from us.
* UPDATE: DCFPI analyst Alexandra Gajdeczka provides additional figures, with great graphs, on homelessness and homeless services funding in the District. Her figures show that I miscalculated. The number of homeless families in D.C. has actually increased by 271 or 46% since 2008.