Housing Complex

D.C. Homeless Population Rises, Despite National Decline

The states (and district) with the biggest increases in homeless population.

The states (and district) with the biggest increases in homeless population.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is out with a report showing that homelessness has declined nationally in every major category and subpopulation in recent years. But here in the District, the news isn't so rosy.

Across the country, the number of homeless people dropped from 671,888 in 2007 to 649,917 in 2010 to 610,042 in 2013—a 9.2 percent decrease over those six years. In D.C., the population rose from 5,320 in 2007 to 6,539 in 2010 to 6,865 in 2013, according to HUD's 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.

In absolute numbers, D.C. has experienced a larger increase in its homeless population since 2007 than all but three states—New York, Massachusetts, and Missouri—despite a much smaller total population than the states with the largest increases. In percentage terms, seven states had greater gains than D.C.'s 29 percent increase.

Compared with cities (and, in a few cases, metropolitan areas), D.C. has the eighth-biggest total homeless population. The seven cities and areas with larger numbers of homeless people all have larger overall populations than the District.

The good news is that only about 7.5 percent of D.C.'s homeless population is unsheltered, according the report. By contrast, in seven states, most of the homeless population is unsheltered. In California, for example, there are 91,272 unsheltered homeless people and just 45,554 sheltered homeless people.

Another small piece of good news: D.C.'s homeless population declined slightly from last year, dropping from 6,954 in 2012 to 6,865 in 2013. The decline in unsheltered homeless people was bigger, going from 679 to 512. But this winter poses a challenge for the city, which is expecting to need to house more homeless families than last year, partly in hotels in D.C. and possibly the suburbs.

Table from the HUD report

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