The number of homeless people in the Washington D. C. metropolitan area has increased by 18% over the last year - with the largest increases being registered in the suburbs - according to a report by the Washington Council of Metropolitan Governments (COG).
The report-which is based on data from the annual Point-in-Time, Homeless Count (PIT), revealed that, by early 2023, the homeless population risen to 8,944 people (1,339 more than in 2022). The report was based on the analysis of nine jurisdictions: the District of Columbia, the City of Alexandria, and in the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Frederick, Loudoun, Montgomery, Prince George's and Prince William.
Suburbs increase their homeless population
Homelessness increased in all counties analyzed. However, with respect to the previous year, the overall increase (+26%) was greater in the areas considered suburbs:
- Alexandria (+27%); Arlington: (+17%); District of Columbia: (+12%); Fairfax: (+10%); Frederick: (+18%); Loudoun: (+122%); Montgomery: (+54%); Prince George: (+15%); Prince William: (+35%).
Between 2019 and 2023, the report revealed a 26% increase in homeless 18-24 year olds. The number of homeless families increased for the first time in five years, including 1,841 children. There was also an increase in the number of homeless elderly people. Christy Respress, executive director and president of Pathways to Housing DC noted:
These statistics, together with the broader regional snapshot contained in the data, should be considered a real wake-up call for the community and for our politicians. We cannot ignore these figures.
Homelessness "on the rise across the country"
The D.C. area joins a growing list of cities that are experiencing increases in their homeless populations: Phoenix (Arizona), Louisville (Kentucky), Tulsa (Oklahoma), Spokane (Washington) and Santa Monica (California) are among them.
In New York City and Los Angeles - also among the hardest hit cities - programs have been implemented to house the homeless. However, obstacles such as a shortage of affordable housing or the problems of drug addiction and mental disorders from which these people often suffer, make it difficult for the plans to take effect. According to Respress:
This is not a Washington DC problem, or a New York City problem, it is a US problem and it is in every community in the country (...) It is impossible to find affordable housing not only in the cities but also in the suburbs of the DC region, without some kind of housing assistance.