- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 10, 2017

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is hailing a one-night tally of homeless people last summer as proof of the success of her efforts to end homelessness in the District.

Volunteers for The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness counted homeless people on the streets and in shelters around the metropolitan area on Jan. 25. They recorded 7,473 homeless persons — 897 not in shelters, 5,363 in shelters and 1,213 in transitional housing — in the city.

As reported by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), those tallies represent a 10.5 percent decrease in the total number of homeless people and a 22 percent decline in the number of homeless families since the annual “point-in-time” (PIT) count was conducted in January 2016.

“These results show that our efforts to prevent homelessness and connect more residents to safe and affordable shelter are paying off,” Miss Bowser said Wednesday. “We still have more to do, but we have made significant progress over the past two years, and we will continue this work until every D.C. resident has a safe place to call home.”

There was an increase among “unsheltered” homeless people, who numbered 318 in 2016 and 897 this year. But the COG report says the weather must be taken into account for those tallies.

“The primary reason for the year-to-year increase in unsheltered persons was the unseasonably warm weather on the night of PIT 2017, especially relative to the 2016 PIT, which was held a few days after a blizzard when a Cold Emergency was still in effect,” the District’s Department of Human Services said in a statement.

Homelessness advocates conduct the count in winter, when most homeless people are in shelters, making it easier to identify them. The count serves as a snapshot of homelessness and provides a demographic breakdown for a particular night.

Homeless families in the District numbered 1,491 in 2016 and 1,166 this year — a nearly 22 percent decrease. More than 3,000 individual family members were housed in emergency shelters, and about 500 ended up in transitional housing.

“I think this administration has a very aggressive program to end homelessness and one of the things we have done we are intervening early on in the process to help stop homeless from occurring in the first place,” Beverly Perry, a senior adviser to Miss Bowser, said Wednesday at the COG meeting announcing the results of the count.

Miss Bowser used the report to tout her Homeward DC initiative to make homelessness in the District “rare, brief and non-recurring.” She said homeless prevention services begun on her watch have increased investments in permanent housing programs by nearly 60 percent.

But critics have said the mayor is not doing enough to find long-term homes for those in need, noting that the city spends about $80,000 a night to house homeless families for short-term stays in motels in Maryland and the District.

According to the COG report, the greater metropolitan area had 11,128 homeless individuals in total this year — a 9 percent decrease from 2016, when there were 12,215 homeless people.

Michael Ferrell, chairman of COG’s Homeless Services Planning and Coordinating Committee, said that successes highlighted in the report can be attributed to the region’s “dedication to providing shelter and wrap-around services to homeless individuals and families.”

Along with the District, the count included the city of Alexandria and Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William counties in Virginia, and Frederick, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland.

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