Local jurisdictions experienced a decrease in homelessness this year, according to a report from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
The nonprofit organization conducted its 17th annual report, “Homelessness in Metropolitan Washington,” based on a point-in-time snapshot from Jan. 25 in nine jurisdictions that receive federal money.
The report shows nearly 11,130 homeless people, a decrease of 1,087 people, or 9 percent, from last year.
“The decreases in most of the region may be attributed in part to the continued use of local and federal dollars to prevent homelessness, to rapidly re-house persons who become homeless and to provide permanent supportive housing to chronically homeless individuals and others with disabling conditions,” the report states. But “our region faces significant challenges in its efforts to end homelessness.”
Prince George’s County had a minimal decrease last year of homeless individuals from 544 to 532, one of the seven jurisdictions that saw a decline.
Although the county has the highest foreclosure rate among all the counties and cities in the region, it had the second-lowest homeless percentage behind Loudoun County, Virginia.
The county had the third-highest number of homeless families at 103, which the report stressed has an effect on low-income families and others who face economic hardship.
The report offers several recommendations to eradicate homelessness, including more local, state and federal resources, job training opportunities for low-wage workers and each jurisdiction offer permanent and supportive housing.
Besides Prince George’s and Loudoun counties, the other seven jurisdictions in the report are: Alexandria, Virginia; District of Columbia and Arlington, Fairfax, Frederick, Montgomery and Prince William counties.
The District tied Frederick County, Maryland, with the highest percentage decrease at 11 percent. However, the nation’s capital had the biggest reduction in the total number of people homeless last year from 8,350 to 7,473, an 877 decrease.
The city has committed more than $106 million to construction and preservation of more than 1,200 housing units.
In 2015, the administration released Homeward D.C., a plan to make homelessness in the city “rare, brief and non-recurring.”
In neighboring Prince George’s, officials identified five subgroups to target those already homeless or those on the verge of homelessness: victims of domestic violence and human trafficking; unaccompanied youth and young adults ages 13 to 24; veterans; those with behavioral challenges; and returning citizens.
Earlier this month, nonprofit organizations applied to receive parts of a $500,000 grant to combat domestic violence. Officials constantly praise the decrease in overall crime in the county, but have admitted domestic violence remains constant in the state of Maryland.
For returning citizens, or former jail and prison inmates, the county’s Economic Development Corp. helped them go through the expungement process to help remove certain offenses from their records. In addition, work on resumes to find suitable job training programs and enter the workforce.
The COG report notes a Welcome Center in Suitland will open this summer to help those returning to the community.
“We want to get them the skills they need and to connect them with employers who have high-demand, high-wage jobs,” said EDC President Jim Coleman after county Executive Rushern L. Baker III gave his annual State of the Economy address this month. “We want to make sure our residents are getting $50,000 or more. … We want to leave no one behind.”