(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the results of the Point in Time (PIT) Count, an annual census of the number and demographic characteristics of adults and children experiencing homelessness in the District on that day. This data represents a snapshot before the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency and is crucial to helping the District continue its efforts to protect and support vulnerable populations during this unpreceded time.
On January 28, 2019, the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness (TCP), joined by hundreds of volunteers, conducted the PIT Count on behalf of the District, a requirement for all jurisdictions receiving Federal homeless assistance funding. This single-day enumeration of the homeless services continuum of care gives TCP and partners in District Government an opportunity to identify gaps in the current portfolio of services and informs future program planning with special consideration to Homeward DC, Mayor Bowser’s strategic plan to end homelessness.
“The results of the 2020 PIT Count tell us that our strategic plan to make homelessness rare, brief, and nonrecurring in the District is working,” said Mayor Bowser. “As we continue to invest in services and our innovative supportive housing programs, the coronavirus pandemic has again demonstrated that the federal government must step up and play a larger role in supporting local affordable housing efforts.”
The report shows that the total number of persons experiencing homelessness in the District decreased by 2.2% from 2019, and family homelessness decreased by 5.8% since last year and by 48.5% since the 2016 PIT count. The number of individuals experiencing homelessness increased by 1.9% since last year, though there was a continued decrease in the percentage of residents experiencing chronic homelessness, which remains at historic lows.
“The system reforms implemented by the Bowser Administration continue to improve our system of care and have enabled us to more comprehensively respond to the coronavirus pandemic,” said Department of Human Services Director Laura Zeilinger. “Now more than ever, empowering people to maintain access to opportunity requires ensuring they are able to meet the fundamental need for a safe and stable place to live as a foundation for the efforts that enable them to prosper. I want to thank and commend Mayor Bowser for her strong leadership on this issue.”
Despite challenging economic conditions, the Mayor’s Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget proposal builds on past efforts to fund proven solutions. The FY21 budget proposal includes $5 million for new Permanent Supportive Housing, $7.8 million to open new ward-based emergency family housing, and $35 million to expand and renovate low-barrier shelters. The District’s continuum of care is also leveraging federal resources to respond to the needs of the immediate COVID-19 public health crisis and invest in the District's recovery.
Some highlights of the Bowser Administration’s work during the public health crisis to keep individuals experiencing homelessness safe include:
- Providing hotel rooms for those who are unsheltered or residing in congregate shelter and test positive for COVID-19 are symptomatic, or have had exposure to others with COVID-19
- Providing hotel rooms for those who are unsheltered or residing in congregate shelter who are medically vulnerable or over 65 years old and would therefore be at high-risk if they were exposed to COVID-19
- Modifying operations in low-barrier shelters including keeping shelters open 24 hours, instituting a “same shelter, same bed” policy, providing three meals a day, offered deep cleaning support, and implementing social distancing protocols.
- Setting up virtual methods to continue vital services such as case management, housing applications, apartment inspections and viewings to sustain activities that end homelessness.
The Homeward DC plan, created in 2015 by the Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH), outlines Mayor Bowser’s unprecedented investments and broad range of initiatives to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring. The plan includes over forty strategies under the umbrella of five broad objectives to bring to scale solutions to end homelessness, such as year-round access to shelter, a robust homelessness prevention program, and increasing the capacity of the homeless services system to quickly connect households experiencing a crisis to permanent housing.
“These numbers tell us two things,” said ICH Director Kristy Greenwalt. “First, they tell us that homelessness is solvable: when you have funding at scale such as we have had in the family system, it is possible to drive down homelessness. Second, they underscore the overwhelming need in this community, which is likely to grow only more intense due to the pandemic. Despite unprecedented levels of new funding by the Mayor, we are struggling to keep up with need, as is every other city in America.”
Data results from the District’s PIT Count are included in a regional analysis and report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) Homeless Services Planning and Coordinating Committee, released June 10, 2020. To address a lack of regional data available, COG undertook the first effort to produce a PIT Count of homeless adults and children in metropolitan Washington in 2001. More data is available at mwcog.org/homelessnessreport.