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Report: Homelessness may be back to pre-pandemic levels in the Washington metro area

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(The Center Square) — Over 9,770 people experienced homelessness in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area one day in January 2024, according to a recent report from The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, resembling pre-pandemic numbers for the first time, reaching an all-time high in supportive housing.

The Council has been collecting a snapshot of homelessness in the metropolitan region every year since January 2001, and for a long time, the number of homeless hovered around 11,500. In 2017 (not counting Frederick County, Md., as the current report does not), the number of homeless dropped by over 1,000. It continued to decline into 2022 when it reached a historic low of less than 7,400.

But in 2023, the number jumped to nearly 8,700, and again in 2024, rising in six of the eight participating jurisdictions.

The report attributes the overall rise partly to the end of “COVID-era housing protections (such as eviction moratoriums and emergency rental assistance supported by pandemic relief funding).” While the total number of homeless resembles 2019 and 2020 numbers, the region’s formerly homeless now in permanent supportive housing, rapid re-housing, and other permanent housing has drastically increased.

From 2020 to 2023, that number remained between 23,000 and 25,000, fluctuating some each year. In 2024, it shot up by more than 10,000 to 34,608.

“We have seen steady progress in housing support services that transition our residents experiencing homelessness into safe, affordable, permanent housing,” said Rodney Lusk, chair of the Council’s Human Services Police Committee and Fairfax County Board Member, in a statement. “But the need in our communities is great, and only with substantial and sustained investments into these programs will our region effectively make the experience of homelessness brief, rare, and non-recurring.”

The District of Columbia accounted for over half of the total number of homeless and most of the 12% overall increase from 2023. More than 5,600 people in Washington were documented as experiencing homelessness in January, up by nearly 700 from the previous year. However, though its numbers have increased since last year, Washington has over 700 fewer homeless people than in 2020, the biggest decrease since 2020 among the eight participating jurisdictions.

Of the jurisdictions surveyed, Washington, Fairfax County, Va., and Montgomery County, Md., are the only ones that surpass 1,000 homeless. Fairfax and Prince George’s counties were the only participating localities to see a decrease from last year, with 32 and 1 fewer people recorded as experiencing homelessness, respectively. Montgomery County saw the second-largest increase, with 250 more people than in 2023.

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