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Survey Measures Regional Homelessness in 2004

A report approved today by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) Board of Directors reveals a slight increase in the number of area residents who are chronically homeless, and establishes new methods for providing better data and tracking solutions for homelessness in the region.


The fourth annual “Homeless Enumeration for the Washington Metropolitan Region,” which tallies the region’s homeless population on a single day, counted 2,200 people among COG’s major jurisdictions who are chronically homeless – continuously without a home for at least one year or experiencing at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years -- compared with 2,157 in 2003. The total number of homeless in the region was found to be 14,537 in 2004. In 2003, the total count was 14,276.


“We’ve established new baselines for measuring homelessness in the region,” said Steve Cleghorn, chair of COG’s Homeless Services Committee. “In the past, we just collected data on the number of people and families who are homeless. This year, we went further and said not only how many are homeless, but were they are— in shelters or in permanent housing. Instead of providing just an overall number, we can say there are about 11,000 who are still working their way through the homeless system.”


COG’s enumeration project provides a “snapshot” of the homeless people who come into contact with service providers on a single day, and is not intended as a scientific count of the population trend over time. For the first time, it counted the number of people who are housed permanently in shelters or other supportive housing because they are unable to support themselves independently due to extreme poverty and serious mental or physical disabilities. On January 21, 2004, there were 3,151 “permanently supported homeless” who have reached a stable housing setting that represents part of the overall solution to homelessness. Increasing the number of available permanent supportive housing units would in turn decrease the number of those who are “literally homeless,” with either no shelter at all or temporary housing only. Of the total count for 2004, 11,386 people were literally homeless.


“With COG’s fourth annual regional homeless enumeration report, local jurisdictions and policy-makers are better equipped to pinpoint and track the homeless problem so permanent housing can be made available,” said Executive Director Dave Robertson. “The report highlights the need for 2,276 housing units outside the continuum of care system, but spread across the region.  The report shows that with COG’s leadership, this goal is clearly within reach.”


At today’s Board meeting, COG’s Homeless Services Planning and Coordinating Committee offered several recommendations to address the problem of homelessness. Among them was a suggestion for member jurisdictions to update regional housing policy to help preserve and develop rental units for adults who are extremely poor or disabled, as well as a recommendation to encourage local governments to produce a practical plan in collaboration with Continuum of Care providers to end chronic homelessness by 2012.


Until the regional enumeration began in 2001, it was not possible to aggregate data on homelessness in the region with any degree of confidence. The coordinated point-in-time enumerations are producing meaningful data on homelessness throughout the region. COG will continue to conduct the survey each year and share the information gathered to improve shelter and other services for homeless families and individuals.

Download the report



Release Date: Jun 9, 2004
Contact: Heather Nalbone
Phone: 202-962-3756

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