D.C. rent may be getting lower, but the city is still expensive, and its economic wins in recent years have been accompanied by an uptick in homelessness. City officials know this, and they’re worried about what will happen during the upcoming winter season. Nevertheless, a report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday showed that the District had a larger rise in homelessness by percentage over the last seven years than any U.S. state.
New York state led the country with the largest increase in homeless people from 2007 to 2014, according to the annual report to Congress. The state’s gain of 17,989 homeless people dwarfed D.C.’s gain of 2,428 people over the same period of time. For the District, however, that rise represented a 45.6 percent increase, which was bigger than those experienced by both New York (28.7 percent) and Massachusetts (40.4 percent).
“The federal government, in partnership with states, communities, and the private and not-for-profit sectors, is focused on widespread implementation of what works to end homelessness,” Laura Green Zeilinger, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, said in a released statement. “Continued investments in solutions like permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing using a Housing First approach is critical to the effort of every community to one day ensure homelessness is a rare, brief, and non-recurring experience.”
The report found 578,424 homeless persons during its single-night count in 2014. Nationally, that meant a 10 percent fall in homelessness since January 2010 when the Obama Administration’s Opening Doors program debuted. D.C., however, bucked that trend.
From 2013 to 2014 alone, D.C. saw an increase of 883 homeless persons, according to the department’s count, representing a year-over-year increase of 12.9 percent – also among the largest in the country. Additionally, five states and the District of Columbia showed chronic homelessness rates that were what the report’s authors considered “significantly above the national rate of 23 percent.” In D.C. alone, 41 percent of the homeless individuals identified were considered “chronically homeless.” New Hampshire, New Mexico, Connecticut, California and Maryland also had rates of 30 percent or higher.