For the second year in a row, there is good news to celebrate about family homelessness in Washington, DC. Family homelessness decreased by 20.8% from 2017 to 2018 (2018 Point-in-Time [PIT] Count for the District of Columbia). That means 242 fewer families experienced homelessness. It’s also worth noting that in 2017, family homelessness similarly decreased by 22%, with 325 fewer families experiencing homelessness than in 2016. These decreases are critical after family homelessness spiked to nearly 1,500 families in 2016, a 47% increase from 2012.
In 2015, our city, homelessness service providers, and the leaders of the DC Interagency Council on Homelessness designed a strategic plan to end homelessness, Homeward DC. We are delighted to see that the Plan’s family interventions, such as the Homelessness Prevention Program and Rapid Re-Housing, are working.
In accordance with the Plan, Community of Hope implements both of those interventions. We help families prevent a shelter stay through the prevention program, a short-term program that intervenes prior to a family becoming homeless. Our case managers work with clients to mediate discussions with friends and family, and provide targeted financial interventions to help a family remain in a safe home, or move into their own home. We’ve served over 1,500 families, with 87% of those families not entering shelter. Preventing families from even becoming homeless helps keeps families and communities stable.
There are many other families who were already in the shelter system and we focus on the move out shelter and back into their own homes, a critical step to addressing other challenges they may be facing. For these families (we currently serve up to 211 families at any given time), we focus on the move out of shelter and back into their own housing, a necessary foundation for addressing other challenges a family may be facing. We serve these families primarily through the Rapid Re-Housing program, a time-limited intervention that provides case management and rental assistance so a family can become stably rehoused. Community of Hope’s successful implementation of this program shows that families are successfully rehoused, and over the two years following their exit from the program, 88% of these families have not returned to shelter.
Community of Hope proudly supports the District’s goal of making family homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring. Family homelessness is decreasing. Our community has a lot more work to do to end family homelessness and to advocate for more affordable housing. The focused and coordinated efforts of our city’s leaders and landlords, families and nonprofits – all supported by voters and donors – is having an impact. Let’s celebrate that!