As both an advocate and service provider for those experiencing homelessness, Thrive DC awaits the Point in Time (PIT) Count Data each year to better understand the broader scope of homelessness that our clients are experiencing daily.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires that Continuums of Care conduct an annual Point In Time (PIT) Count to determine the number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night in January. The “PIT” count creates a snapshot of the scope and scale of homelessness in DC at a single point in time and includes both those sheltered in emergency shelters or transitional housing and those unsheltered on the streets.
While many organizations and advocates for those experiencing homelessness believe that the PIT Count is often a severe undercount of the homeless population, the data is annually used for planning programs, allocating funding, and tracking progress towards Homeward DC goals – making it an important and widely referenced statistic.
We have made great progress, and yet there is always more work to be done. As the long-standing Executive Director of Thrive DC, I have 5 takeaways from this data that I hope will shed more light on our city’s current situation and usher us into a new frontier of achieving our mission to prevent and end homeless in DC.
1. We have made significant progress in ending street homelessness in D.C.
Homelessness in D.C. has decreased by 80% since 2017, according to the 2022 Point in Time (PIT) Count data. The number of people in DC counted without stable housing, at 4,410, is the lowest in 17 years.
This improvement can be attributed to many things. There were a lot of placements made through the PEP-V program during Covid, and the city made a tremendous impact through this initiative. Additionally, things like rapid re-housing, less evictions, and stimulus support were large contributors. Sadly, we also know that many vulnerable members of our community lost their lives to the pandemic. In 2021, Thrive DC said goodbye to more clients than in any other year prior.
Thankfully, the city is also making significant investments in ending homelessness and Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) for single adults without housing specifically, a population that has been underfunded in the past. We expect to see even more progress in the coming years on ending homelessness!
2. This progress doesn’t mean that there aren’t still people in crisis.
In fact, there are just as many – or even more – people on the margins right now. Even if someone has a stable living situation, they may still be experiencing economic hardship, food insecurity, unaddressed mental and physical health problems, domestic violence, substance abuse, and social stigma due to status as a returning citizen.
Visible street homelessness and tent encampments is just one piece of the pie – there are still a myriad of other problems that an individual may be experiencing without any assistance or support in way that is invisible to most observers.
3. Some of this progress may be temporary – and we need to find ways to make it permanent.
As we know, government-funded programs can’t last forever – eviction moratoriums are ending, PEP-V is set to end, and stimulus funding has come to a close. For those who have successfully gotten off the streets, we need to anticipate their needs and help keep them off the streets.
We must enter a new frontier: prevention.
If we’re going to make this progress permanent, we have to look at individuals who are not yet homeless but will be without the proper support:
- Unstable housing: those who are not counted in PIT but still lack a stable living situation.
- Food insecure: those without access to, or without funds to afford, healthy and nutrient-dense groceries.
- Economic crisis: those earning $15.50 (minimum wage) and having to work 78 hrs/week to afford an average one bedroom apartment in DC.
- Returning citizens: those coming home from incarceration and running up against even more obstacles to find employment, housing, or stability to due to social stigma from society.
Supporting these subpopulations will be crucial in preventing individuals from falling into homelessness in the future.
4. Supporting returning citizens will be key to the next frontier of preventing and ending homelessness.
1 in 5 returning citizens will be homeless within the first three months of their release, and 55% of people experiencing homelessness who have been incarcerated, exited their incarceration into homelessness.
Not only are these numbers shocking, but they tell us that preventing and ending homelessness will be impossible without providing special support to those coming home from incarceration. At Thrive DC, we have expanded our services to increase programming for returning citizens – including dedicated case managers and programmatic support, new transitional housing, and advocacy efforts to help change public perceptions.
5. We won’t end homelessness alone.
At Thrive DC, we are committed to viewing our work through a lens of equity. This means that we recognize the impact that individuals from all walks of life can have on each other, while also recognizing that some communities are “disproportionately affected by the drivers of homelessness in the District.”
As a DC resident, you have the choice to participate in making our city a place where everyone can thrive. How will you help your most vulnerable neighbors?
If you have the ability to volunteer, come in and help our small staff. From cooking and washing dishes, to filing documents and mail, there is always work to be done. If you have a specific talent, let us know! It’s possible that we can utilize your talent to support our organization’s operations or direct client support.
Last but certainly not least, help us keep the work going by becoming a monthly donor. Ending homelessness within the next few years is possible – but not without the resources we need, from equitable compensation for our front-line staff to shampoo for clients.
Every cent we spend to support our vulnerable community members has to be raised. Your financial contributions to our work are well spent and critically needed!