Despite an overall 3.5% increase in homelessness in metropolitan Washington from 2013 to 2014, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County saw a decrease in the number of homeless individuals in their jurisdictions according to a report on the 14th annual count of the region’s homeless.
The report, Homelessness in Metropolitan Washington, released by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) tied the decrease of homelessness in individual jurisdictions to an increase in affordable housing programs. As reported in the MWCOG press release:
According to this year’s report, Arlington, Fairfax, and Montgomery counties had the biggest decreases (188, 125, and 113 persons respectively) in the number of homeless people in the region. Though overall homelessness in the region is higher, significant decreases in homelessness in individual jurisdictions and among the chronically homeless across jurisdictions are due to strategies such as prevention, rapid re-housing, and prioritizing the most vulnerable chronically homeless persons for permanent supportive housing placements. The report shows a 25 percent reduction in the unsheltered homeless population.
The report stresses “the greatest barrier to ending homelessness in our communities is a lack of fixed, affordable permanent housing opportunities for the lowest income households.”
As reported in The Washington Post, the overall increase in homelessness was largely due to a loss of affordable housing in Washington D.C. The District accounted for two-thirds of the nearly 12,000 homeless people in the region, most of which were single women and their children.
Montgomery County, which saw one of the largest drops in homelessness, attributes the success to connecting homeless individuals with permanent supportive housing. As reported in Bethesda Now:
“It is great to know that our efforts to reduce the number of people living under conditions of misery are paying off with measurable results,” Councilmember George Leventhal said in a prepared county release.
Leventhal is the chair of the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee and has taken a lead role in promoting the Housing First philosophy of getting homeless people off the streets.
“We need to continue placing homeless clients in permanent, stable housing,” Leventhal said. “That’s the most effective way to keep bringing our homelessness rate down and to assist clients to repair their broken lives.”