Occupy protesters won’t be counted as homeless

District officials and homeless advocates say they are going to try to avoid counting Occupy DC protesters when they conduct the annual survey of the city’s homeless population on Wednesday night.


An Occupy DC protestor's sign and tents sit in McPherson Square Park in Washington, Jan. 13, 2012. (Cliff Owen/Associated Press)

As part of a regional census of the area’s homeless population, about 200 people will fan out across the District to try to get an accurate count of how many people do not have regular, stable shelter.

But officials concede this year’s count in sections of Downtown could be complicated by the ongoing Occupy DC protests in McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza. As the demonstration enters its fourth month, the camps have drawn protesters with a range of incomes as well as individuals who are homeless.

“Those who are regular Occupy protesters will not be considered,” said Michael Ferrell, executive director of the DC Coalition for the Homeless. “Certainly the area that are occupied have historically been frequented by persons who are homeless so it will represent additional challenges.”

To get an accurate estimate, Ferrell said canvassers will likely have to spend additional time interviewing individuals near each encampment. While it is important to separate the protesters from the homeless, it also is important to know how many people near each encampment may need services when the protests end, officials say.

And even if some protesters are mistakenly counted as homeless, it’s unlikely to have a major impact on official estimates.

At a congressional hearing on Tuesday, D.C. officials stated they believe only 30 to 40 regular protesters remain in Freedom Plaza. Between 25 and 50 camp in McPherson Square, officials said.

Last year, the annual census determined there were 6,546 homeless individuals in the District. Across the entire 25-jurisidiction Washington region, there were 111,988 homeless individuals in 2011, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which coordinates the annual census.

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.

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