DC Homeless Population Has Jumped 14 Percent, Survey Says

An annual survey found that D.C. has seen a 14 percent increase in the past year in the number of people experiencing homelessness -- while almost every other part of the region saw reductions.

The rate of homelessness among D.C. families rose even more sharply in the past year, with an increase of nearly 32 percent, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) found in its annual point-in-time count.

D.C. officials attributed the jump to the District's policy of providing year-round access to shelter for families. 

D.C. is the only jurisdiction in the area where people cannot be turned away from shelter during cold weather, and families never are turned away. While D.C. has a residency requirement for shelters, it rarely results in people from Maryland and Virginia being turned away.

"We never say, especially during 'right to shelter' [hypothermia season], that there is no space, we cannot provide that to you. Other jurisdictions, that isn’t their policy," said Laura Zeilinger, head of the D.C. Department of Human Services.

The numbers of homeless people in nine jurisdictions in the D.C. area were counted Jan. 28, 2016, providing a one-day snapshot.

Here's what officials found, compared with the previous year's results:

Washington, D.C.: 14 percent increase
Arlington County: 27 percent decrease
City of Alexandria: 16 percent decrease
Fairfax County: 12 percent decrease
Frederick County: 12 percent increase
Loudoun County: 20 percent decrease
Montgomery County: 11 percent decrease
Prince George's County: 13 percent decrease
Prince William County: 2 percent decrease

One third of homeless people in the region are children, MWCOG found. More than one quarter of the total number are employed. And more than half of the population grapples with substance abuse, mental health issues or both.

The count includes people living in streets and other public places, emergency shelters, transitional housing and permanent supportive housing.

Stay with News4 for more details on this developing story.

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