Despite a record low Point-in-Time Count (PIT) in 2022, the DC Department of Human Services (DHS) reported an increase in people in DC experiencing homelessness in 2023 after years of being on the decline. The 11.6% increase this year comes likely as a result of reductions in federal COVID-19 pandemic relief. Without the assistance of initiatives such as the American Rescue Plan Act, Stay DC, and eviction moratoriums, many vulnerable individuals and families are struggling to adjust to a post-pandemic world. While the world may be returning to a new normal, the homelessness crisis in DC is certainly not.
Of the nearly 5,000 people accounted for in the PIT count, half of them are experiencing homelessness for the first time. Even though the figures are lower than the 2020 PIT count, the current uptick raises concerns over the direction of progress as rental assistance programs wind down and evictions rise up. Given the recent data, DHS reports that the number of people experiencing homelessness for the first time exceeds the number of people transitioning out of homelessness, indicating that more help is needed to combat this disparity.
In a news release, DHS Director Laura Green Zeiliner emphasized DHS’s focus on improving resources to aid unhoused individuals and families in DC: “We are doubling down on reforms underway that build on a resilient, efficient, and effective homelessness response system for families.” She affirms that the 2023 data “leads to a clear call to action.”
Now more than ever, affordable housing assistance is vital to answering this call. At Housing Up, 98% of the families we serve maintained their stable housing last year. Through the help of our resident services and support services, we provide transformative affordable housing and community programming that help the families we serve. Our commitment to providing affordable housing coupled with support services is an integral part of solving the city’s homelessness crisis.
Yet, even beyond DC, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has reported a 26% surge in homelessness in suburban counties for 2023. The Washington-area homeless census found that 8,944 individuals are experiencing homelessness across nine jurisdictions surrounding the District. Within the past year, in places like Loudoun County and Montgomery County, the unhoused population rose from 99 to 220 and 581 to 894 respectively.
The increase in homelessness in the DMV serves as a testament to the region’s need to reapproach its plan in tackling housing affordability and homelessness services in the community. The District of Columbia Housing Association’s (DCHA) decade-old 20,000 people long waiting list for public housing and limited housing vouchers has stagnated the process of getting unhoused individuals access to affordable housing. (Starting in April 2023, DCHA has made efforts to open up the waiting list after the board of commissioners voted to approve revising its management guidelines for housing programs.)
Although Housing First initiatives have grown throughout the city, to meet the high demands for affordable housing, more consistent, proactive, and holistic programs are crucial to providing that accessibility. At Housing Up, we aim to do our part in achieving this goal and work closely with DC agencies like DHS and DHCD to serve more families and develop more units of affordable housing. With each new housing development and partnership we aim to bring stable, safe and affordable housing to all of DC’s families.