The District had the highest rate of homelessness in a new survey that looked at the problem in 32 U.S. cities.
The “Hunger and Homelessness” survey from the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that D.C. has 124.2 homeless people for every 10,000 residents in the general population. The city also had one of the fastest increases in homelessness between 2009 and 2016, with a 34.1 percent gain. By comparison, New York had the largest increase during that period, at 49 percent.
The number of homeless people in families in the District also surged by 103.54 percent between those years, the survey found. That was second only to Wichita, which had a 160.8 percent increase.
In some areas, the District fared well, registering the lowest proportion of unsheltered homeless people and one of the lowest proportions of homeless youths in the survey. The report also praised a Department of Human Services program that houses homeless veterans.
The office of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said the report shows that more work needs to be done to battle the city’s shortage of affordable housing.
“This report offers both encouragement for many of the things we are doing right in the District, as well as an honest assessment of additional steps we can take to reduce homelessness,” Bowser’s communications director, Kevin Harris, said in a statement. “The mayor agrees that a comprehensive approach is needed to adequately address homelessness, including more affordable housing and higher wages — two areas this administration has led on through our minimum wage increase and an unprecedented $100 million annual investment in the affordable housing fund.”
The Conference of Mayors — the “official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more,” as its website explains — has reported on homelessness since 1982.
It completed the survey, which is based on HUD data, “to serve as a reference for policymakers and journalists on the extent of and solutions to hunger and homelessness in U.S. cities,” the report says.
The 32 cities in the survey, from 24 states, were chosen partly because better data for those areas was available, the report’s authors said. Some cities were excluded because they are not part of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and one city asked not to be included.
The report pointed out that nationwide, homelessness has fallen almost 13 percent since 2009 but that 75 percent of cities in the study had rates higher than the national rate of homelessness.
Samantha Batko, director of research for the National Alliance to End Homelessness, an advocacy group that participated in the report, said the District faces unique challenges in fighting homelessness. Large swaths of the city’s land are under federal control, she said, and the city lacks skyscrapers seen in other major cities.
“I just don’t think there’s another city in the country like the District of Columbia,” she said.