- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 25, 2018

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser joined volunteers who hit the streets to count the number of people sleeping outdoors Wednesday night as part of the District’s annual “Point-in-Time” (PIT) tally of homelessness.

“We set out three years ago with what some people thought was an impossible goal — to end homelessness in our city,” Miss Bowser, a Democrat, told about 300 PIT volunteers gathered at Strong John Thomson Elementary in Northwest.

Miss Bowser, who ran on a campaign to make homelessness “rare, brief and non-recurring,” touted a 10.5 percent reduction in overall homelessness according to PITs count over the last two years.

But the PIT count also shows mixed results when it comes to the homeless population that sleeps outdoors. In 2015, the number of homelessness people sleeping rough was 544. In 2016 it dropped to 318, then rose to 897 last year.

Each U.S. city conducts its PIT count and shares it annually with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) which uses the tally to fund municipalities’ efforts in tackling homelessness.

“The better we do our count, the better we can report back to HUD, and the more money [for services] we get,” said PIT volunteer Kevin Morton, a 54-year-old former Marine who works as the homeless coordinator for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

Wednesday night, Mr. Morton and fellow volunteer Hector Lugo, 49, VA peer support specialist, worked for almost an hour to make sure they didn’t miss anyone. In Franklin Park, Mr. Morton approached an older man whose gray shelter-issue blanket blends in with the sidewalk on the corner K and 11th streets NW. As he knelt down to ask the man his name (Richard) and age (65) and if he would like shelter tonight (he doesn’t), Mr. Morton recorded his survey answers he carried on a clipboard.

The 2018 PIT count is expected to be lower than last year’s, but that could due to the chilly temperatures.

“The unsheltered count tends to go down when the hypothermia alert is on,” a spokesperson for the The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness told The Times.

But more reductions in the PIT lend momentum to Miss Bowser’s plan to close the aging homeless shelter at the D.C. General Hospital and replace it with smaller shelters throughout the city.

“The work sometimes seems impossible and like we’re never nearing an end, but what we do see is that we’re driving down the number of people who are coming into our homeless services system,” said Miss Bowser, who is running for re-election.

D.C. Council member Brianne K. Nadeau, Ward 1 Democrat, said the District “can end chronic homelessness. We know how, and we are going do it.”

Ms. Nadeau, chair of the council’s Human Services Committee, backs the Bowser plan but admitted the first community meeting on a proposed homeless shelter in her ward was “pretty rough.”

Council member Elissa Silverman, at-large Democrat, said “we’re here to do this count to quantify what our homelessness problem is,” but also noted how the annual event highlights the gaps in the District’s human services.

Ms. Silverman told volunteers that two years ago during a PIT count, she met a homeless couple who refused shelter for fear of giving up their dog. In 2018, there are still no shelters in the District that accept pets.

People seeking shelter must place any pets in the care of the Human Rescue Alliance, according to a spokesperson for the District’s Department of Human Services.

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