Tent encampments are on the rise, with more than 100 of them now across the District as hundreds of people experience homelessness. Now Mayor Muriel Bowser's administration is trying a new way to clear out the encampments and move those people into permanent housing.
But the plan is not without controversy.
The District has thousands of people experiencing homelessness, many now living in tent encampments that are growing by the day. The D.C. Department of Human Services estimates there are at least 119 encampments across the District, with about 327 tents.
In an effort to remove the encampments, which often pose health concerns, the Bowser administration is launching a pilot program. The tent encampments would be removed, but rather than send those living there to shelters, they would go straight from their tents to an apartment.
"Our hope that is all of the residents who are living in the encampments take us up on the offer," said Wayne Turnage, D.C.'s deputy mayor of Health and Human Services.
Turnage tells News4 that the District is targeting several sites for the pilot program, the largest encampment in the NoMa neighborhood at the L and M streets underpass, an encampment on New Jersey Avenue NW and one at 21st and E streets NW.
The initial cost for the program is about $4 million.
Advocates for those experiencing homelessness are concerned that taking people from tents to apartments bypasses the coordinated entry process and the waitlist for housing.
There are currently about 4,000 people experiencing homelessness on the waitlist for housing.
"We're in middle of a public health emergency; we are responding to a public health need," said Turnage.
In addition to immediate housing, the pilot program would offer intensified support services.
A spokesperson for the deputy mayor told News4 that while those in tent encampments would be moved to the front of the waitlist, many of them are already on that list.