Housing Complex

D.C.’s Homeless Shelter Crisis, by the Numbers

Page ThreeD.C. is required by law to provide shelter for all homeless people when the temperature with windchill drops below freezing. This year, those so-called hypothermia conditions first set in two weeks ago. But last year, there weren’t enough beds to accommodate every homeless family, and so the District put up many of them in hotels, at a significant cost to the city. The crunch could now be even tighter, and D.C. may have to start booking hotel rooms in the suburbs to keep everyone warm and off the streets. Here’s a look at the daunting numbers, provided by the D.C. Department of Human Services, facing the city as winter approaches.

First day the temperature dropped below freezing this season: Nov. 13

Number of days last winter with hypothermia alerts: 99

Homeless families in D.C.:
2009: 703
2011: 858
2013: 983

Families needing shelter last winter: 463

Families expected to need shelter this winter: 509

Family shelter units available: 284

Cost of a hotel room for a homeless family for one night: $100

Monthly cost of a hotel room for a homeless family: $3,000

Total cost of putting up families in hotels last winter: $2,544,454.00

Homeless families already living at hotels as of September: 94

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • DC

    We ought to send the bill for this to the surrounding Maryland and Virginia counties. You want the benefit of proximity to thousands of jobs? Then you gotta carry your weight. Or at least have your church do-gooders hand out free food on your street corners not ours.

  • One party town

    Love this: "Monthly cost of a hotel room for a homeless family: $3,000."

    Affordable housing for the less fortunate, sure, but $3k is more than most mortgage payments.

    Couldn't we find a cheaper motel in PG or Anacostia for these folks (not being snarky, just looking at the budgeting).

  • Angel of the City

    The District of Columbia ,City Council, The Mayor and the DC Chambers -need to revisit the law that made this legislation currently. It is not feasible to allow residents from other states to continue to come here , with no job , no prospect of a job and be immediately assured of care from the coffers of the city.

    Many who are interviewed year after year come from as far west as Oregon, the mountains of West Va ,NY,Nj,Mass,Va.,Md., --- seeking shelter.

    Mental Health issues also account for a sizeable number of homeless ---members--DHS-DMH need to review the current residential homes and spot check --the residents who are being paid for to be in these homes and are downtown, living in the cities tunnels-- Our residents deserve better ---

    The city also must

  • name

    Induced Demand.

  • Hillman

    We don't have a homeless housing shortage.

    Instead we've chosen to use our resources very poorly.

    We have, for instance, the dilapidated and unsafe Mitch Snyder Center. On extremely valuable land three blocks from the Capitol.

    The land alone is worth a quarter billion dollars.


    We could lease or sell that land to the highest bidder and fund five times as many beds for the homeless.

    Complete with mental health and drug programs.

    But no. Instead it's more important that we 'keep the homeless visible' on really expansive parcels of land.

    For political purposes.

    Same with a variety of public housing centers, like Potomac Gardens on very expensive Capitol Hill land.

    We've made our choice.

    It's silly for us to now go back and incorrectly complain that we don't have enough resources to take care of the homeless.

  • Anonymous

    @OnePartyTown : "Couldn't we find a cheaper motel in PG or Anacostia for these folks"

    And there lies the problem. Why does every homeless shelter/rehab/group home etc. have to be pushed to Anacostia and the neighborhoods east of the river? This is a problem and DC residents needs to stop thinking of east of the river as some kind of social service candy land or the dumping ground of the city.

    BTW -- There is not a single hotel in Anacostia (which by the way is just a neighborhood -- not everything east of the river). There is also not a single hotel in all of Ward 8 and as long as DC keeps pushing every unsightly program and social service provider east of the river without sending some jobs and development there won't be a hotel coming anytime soon.

  • Pingback: Turkey time in D.C.

  • One Party Town

    @Anonymous: Because Russia is too far and the other Wards' elected officials would never tolerate such a horse trade.

    In terms EotR's lodging woes, I think you just found yourself the next start-up! Best of luck.

  • http://povertyandpolicy.wordpress.com Kathryn Baer

    There may be a cheaper motel in PG. But the families have children. How will they get to their schools? How will the parents get to their jobs or, if they don’t have a job, to a training program they’re likely to be enrolled in (and required to attend) and/or to prospective employers?

    The real answer to the homelessness problem is more investment in housing that’s affordable for very low-income residents, plus vouchers for those who need them. A smarter investment and better for them too.

  • k

    The District does not own all of the land at the Federal City Shelter (aka Mitch Snyder Center). The Community for Creative Nonviolence owns the parking lot and the smaller building. So the District government does not control the future of the whole site.

    A Task Force is currently meeting to discuss the future of the site as the covenant with the federal government is expiring shortly. The covenant restricted the use of the site.

  • Hillman


    You are correct.

    But the Mitch Snyder Center gets DC taxpayer funding and other resources.

    Lots of it.

    No matter how you slice it as long as we continue uses like that we are wasting resources.

  • Typical DC BS

    Am I reading the cost figure correctly? $2,544,454 for housing about 179 families (463 families needing shelter less 284 family shelter units available) x $3,000/mos - $537,000 month. $2,544,454 divided by $537,000/mos = 4.74 months of housing.

    Didn't our illustrious Mayor Gray just say he wants to spend $180 MILLION on affordable housing? How does he justify spending that much, when these figures show the overflow is about $6.4 million to house 179 families at $3,000/mos for 12 months? (179 families x $3,000/mos x 12 months)?

  • Pingback: States spending millions for motels for homelessSnob zones

  • CallousDCite

    Prince George's is not your dumping ground of misfortunate families.

  • Pingback: States spending millions on motels for homelessSnob zones

  • Pingback: blue ofica