Counting Our Homeless Neighbors While Envisioning a Future Without Homelessness

Last Wednesday night, volunteers braved the cold to conduct the annual Point in Time (PIT) count. The PIT aims to get an accurate snapshot of people experiencing homelessness in DC on a single night. Providers survey their clients and volunteers fan out across the District to survey residents living outside. Conducting a PIT count is a requirement for receiving federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the information gathered helps us know how to better address homelessness. It tells us about who is homeless, where they are staying, and whether the strategies we are using to combat homelessness are working.

I surveyed individuals in Dupont Circle, my neighborhood. Along with two others, I looked in alleys, outdoor staircases and under bridges for folks experiencing homelessness. We found homeless neighbors sleeping in Dupont Circle, doorways, and outdoor patios as well as on church steps. Most of the residents we found outside were chronically homeless, meaning they have been homeless for a long time and suffer from life-threatening health conditions and/or mental illness.

Chronic homelessness cuts lives short. People who don’t know where they’re going to spend the night struggle to receive needed services like medical treatment or counseling. And they are often forced to stay in places that are unsafe or make their illnesses worse. As a result, the life expectancy of people facing chronic homelessness is far shorter than for those who are stably housed.

As a member of The Way Home Campaign, the campaign to end chronic homelessness in the District, DCFPI envisions a future where no one is chronically homeless. The Way Home calls on the Mayor and the Council to work towards ending chronic homelessness by making large investments in housing and services in the fiscal year 2021 budget. You can support these efforts by joining The Way Home.