In Nation’s Capital, Homelessness Increased 13 Percent In A Year

CREDIT: Shawn Davis

A disabled army vet who is homeless asks passersby for help in a tony area of Washington D.C.

Even as the national rate of homelessness continues to decline, this past year alone it jumped 13 percent in Washington, D.C.

Figures released Wednesday from the annual homeless census found 7,748 homeless people living in D.C. on a single night in January, up from 6,685 in 2013. Since 2010, homelessness in D.C. has increased 18 percent, even as it has declined six percent nationally in the same time period.

The report found that more than a quarter of all homeless people in the nation’s capital are children, and half are people in families. Family homelessness is up a shocking 50 percent since 2010.

The census likely undercounts the true number of homeless people. That’s due to a number of factors, including the fact that it’s conducted on a single night, counting policies vary city to city, and it can be difficult to find where some homeless people live, whether it’s in a hidden spot or on a friend’s couch.

The Washington Post notes that a number of factors are driving the increase in D.C. homelessness, including a lack of affordable housing and stagnating wages. The two forces have combined into a toxic mixture where it currently takes working more than three minimum-wage jobs to afford the typical rent for a two-bedroom apartment. Cuts to Section 8 housing vouchers aren’t helping either.

There were a few bright spots in the findings. The number of unsheltered homeless people — who sleep in places like sidewalks, parks, and under bridges — was down 23 percent over the past year. In addition, though the number of chronically homeless people ticked up slightly since 2013, it’s still down 15 percent since 2010.

To learn more about how the count is conducted, read ThinkProgress’ firsthand report from this year’s homeless census.