The 2023 Point in Time Homelessness Count, released last week, shows an increase in homelessness in DC for the first time in years. Even more concerning, nearly 50% of DC’s unhoused residents were experiencing homelessness for the first time, rather than being chronically homeless. This high number of residents experiencing homelessness likely points to economic factors, such as job loss, increased costs of daily living, and rising housing costs. As we work to recover economically from the COVID-19 pandemic and grapple with historic high inflation, the District’s housing safety net programs are crucial in helping families and individuals remain stable.
The Council has been working to restore funding for housing safety net programs, such as the Emergency Rental Assistance Program and housing vouchers, that Mayor Bowser proposed to cut from the fiscal year 2024 city budget. As chair of the Committee on Housing, I am collaborating with Council colleagues to increase funding further. I am also working with the Bowser Administration and providers to speed up the housing voucher process so we can get more vouchers out the door faster to residents.
Failing to sufficiently fund housing safety net programs and expedite the housing voucher process will lead to an increase in homelessness and more encampments. This year’s PIT count shows that we’ve lost ground in our efforts to end homelessness. I will keep working to ensure that the Council takes action on housing programs in the budget.