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This is a bad sign. The weather is still pretty decent. But homeless shelters are at capacity or over capacity, according to recent census figures. On October 27, there were no vacancies for homeless men, and shelters for homeless women were over capacity by two. There were zero vacancies listed for homeless families.
Yesterday, there were four vacancies at men’s shelters. Women shelters were over capacity by one. There were zero vacancies for homeless families.
At the beginning of October, there appeared to be less than 25 vacancies. As the month progressed, the trend tilted toward the majority of shelters at capacity or over capacity. By October 12, men’s shelters had four vacancies and women’s shelters were over capacity. And again, no vacancies for families.
Three days later, there was only one vacancy listed for the men’s shelters. On Oct. 18, the shelter system was over capacity by one.
“I think we’re seeing the expected bump up in demand,” says Patricia Fugere, executive director of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. “We’ve been anticipating a bump up, and it’s there and it’s there before the weather really has snapped cold.”
Fugere worries about the District’s level of commitment. Government officials have promised an additional 10 percent increase in bed space during cold weather. But the funding would remain at ’08-’09 levels. “There’s a concern that those numbers are playing it too close to the margin,” she says.
Fugere adds that the issues concerning the homeless services cuts still have not been worked out. “We haven’t heard anything,” she says. “We’re very concerned about the capacity issue.”