Credit: Darrow Montgomery/file

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D.C.’s 2022 point-in-time count, the annual survey of people experiencing homelessness on a single night, revealed decreases in most categories, including overall homelessness, family homelessness, and homelessness among single adults, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration announced today. 

About 4,410 homeless people were counted on Jan. 26, down from about 8,350 people in 2016, Bowser said. Family homelessness decreased by 14 percent from last year, and single adult homelessness decreased by 12 percent. Chronic homelessness, when a person spends more than a year without a home, decreased for individuals and families by 26 percent and 22 percent respectively, according to Bowser.

But figures that went unmentioned in Bowser’s original release show that the number of unsheltered residents (such as folks living in tents) remained flat, homeless veterans increased by 11 percent, from 184 to 205, and unaccompanied youth increased from 325 in 2021 to 351 in this year’s count. (H/t to NBC reporter Mark Segraves for asking the question.) 

Department of Human Services Director Laura Zeilinger suggested that increase in unaccompanied youth could indicate the city is reaching more kids and is then able to engage them for services. She also noted that the city does another, weeklong count of homeless youth during the summer to get a more thorough understanding of youth homelessness.

The point-in-time count is especially imperfect for youth experiencing homelessness. In 2021, for example, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education reported 5,893 kids experienced homelessness for the 2020-’21 school year.

In any case, Bowser is using the 2022 point-in-time numbers, an imperfect tally of those sleeping outside and in shelters, to claim some level of success in her promises to end homelessness. While it’s encouraging that the numbers are trending down, some housing and homelessness experts view them with cautious optimism. 

“It’s great that homelessness is going down in some areas, but for that progress to be continued, D.C. has to sustain the investments this year in permanent affordable housing and stop relying on harmful programs,” says Amber Harding, a lawyer with the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. Harding believes this year’s point-in-time results are due in part to historic levels of funding for housing vouchers and eviction prevention as well as the eviction moratorium, which is no longer in place.

Harding points to D.C.’s rapid rehousing program, which provides short-term rental assistance for families, as a concern. The Bowser administration is preparing to terminate 913 families from the program this year. Harding says DHS, which administers the program, has sent notices to 283 families so far—272 of which will not receive any level of rental assistance after their rapid rehousing subsidy expires, she says.

Bowser also used the point-in-time numbers to highlight her 2023 budget proposal’s investments in housing and homelessness. She’s asking for $31 million to move people off the streets via housing vouchers and $114 million to improve shelters. Housing advocates and policy analysts, many who are often critical of the mayor, are optimistic about her proposed level of investment.

“We believe homelessness is a solvable problem,” Bowser said.

Mitch Ryals (tips?

  • To see today’s COVID-19 data, visit our coronavirus tracker.
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By Ambar Castillo (tips?

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By Sarah Marloff (tips?

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