- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2020

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, with about 300 volunteers and other city officials, have conducted the annual head count of homeless people in the District, but the results won’t be available until May.

Officials hope the tally from Wednesday night reflects the results of 2019’s Point in Time Survey, which showed a 5.5% decrease from the previous year in the number of people experiencing homelessness.

The survey results will show whether Miss Bowser has accomplished the city’s strategic plan to make “homelessness in the District … rare, brief and nonrecurring” this year.

“As we continue working to end homelessness in Washington, D.C., the residents we talk to tonight and the information we collect will help us ensure we’re building the right programs and funding the right resources to get all Washingtonians into safe, permanent housing,” Miss Bowser said Wednesday in a press release. “Every day, we have outreach teams in the community building relationships and connecting unsheltered residents to the services, shelter, and housing opportunities they need to thrive. Our work continues until every person in our city has a place to call home.”

From 9 p.m. Wednesday until about 2 a.m. Thursday, organizations such as Pathways to Housing DC and Miriam’s Kitchen, as well as outreach workers with the D.C. government, led teams of volunteers to count and interview people experiencing homelessness in shelters or tents about their needs.

The survey helps the government determine whether it is reaching its goals and evaluate which programs are working. It is especially helpful as the District prepares to update Homeward DC, its strategic plan to address homelessness, said Kristy Greenwalt, executive director of the Interagency Council on Homelessness.

“As long as poverty and personal crises exist, homelessness will happen,” Ms. Greenwalt said. “We can do a lot to prevent people from experiencing homelessness.”

Christy Respress, executive director of Pathways to Housing D.C., said the mayor envisions enough housing resources for people who enter homelessness and no more cases of chronic homelessness.

“You don’t have to have the data on a piece of paper” to know there is work that needs to be done to reach the mayor’s goal, Ms. Respress said. “Still, [you] walk around in D.C., our shelters are full and you will see people in the streets.”

Specifically in NoMa, tents of homeless people line the sidewalk under the bridges of the train tracks. Last week, D.C. government workers cleared out all the tents on the sidewalk under the K Street Northeast underpass to make room for pedestrians. Many of those homeless folk moved to the L Street Northeast underpass.

The mayor’s fiscal 2020 budget has more than $91 million for new and upgraded shelters and permanent supportive housing facilities, including funds to rebuild the 801 East Men’s Shelter, new short-term family housing programs in Wards 1 and 3, and upgrades to the New York Avenue Men’s Shelter.

“This is a math problem. Housing ends homeless, and housing first approach is what gets us there,” Ms. Respress said.

• Sophie Kaplan can be reached at skaplan@washingtontimes.com.

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