Number of Homeless People Counted in Montgomery County’s Annual Census Falls by 6 Percent

Number of Homeless People Counted in Montgomery County’s Annual Census Falls by 6 Percent

Point-in-time survey found 840 homeless individuals on a night in January

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Screenshot of a county video about the annual Point in Time count.

VIA MONTGOMERY COUNTY GOVERNMENT

The number of people without shelter in Montgomery County dropped by about 6 percent this year in an annual census aimed at providing a snapshot of homelessness in the D.C. area.

The point-in-time survey, the results of which were released Wednesday by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, found that 840 people were homeless in Montgomery County on Jan. 24, the night of the count. The number of homeless individuals counted has decreased by 54 since last year and by about 24 percent since 2015, according to a county press release.

“Montgomery County has pursued nationally-recognized best practices to reduce the prevalence of homelessness,” County Council member George Leventhal, who is running for county executive, said in the release. “These Point in Time count results indicate that our efforts are making progress.”

Leventhal, who chairs the council’s health and human services committee, said the survey is an imperfect counting mechanism, but it does provide a basis for comparison. He participates in the count each year, and this time, headed into downtown Silver Spring.

He said the experience is both uplifting and challenging. His group of volunteers gave a blanket to a woman sleeping outside the county’s Wayne Avenue parking garage and made sure outreach workers were aware of her. Within three days, she was housed, he said.

On the other hand, they weren’t able to convince a man who was standing outside a Fenton Street laundromat to participate in the survey, he said.

“This is very difficult work,” Leventhal said.

Officials attribute the decline in homelessness to investments in permanent housing and the county’s Inside Not Outside campaign to end chronic homelessness. Providers have boosted outreach and created a list to track people who are chronically homeless or at risk. The county press release states that 362 chronically homeless individuals had been placed in permanent housing as of May 7.

The number of adults who reported chronic substance abuse fell by 37 percent, dropping from 104 in 2017 to 66 in 2018, according to the release. Eighty-five families with children were counted, compared to 109 in 2016. 

The county met its goal of ending veteran homelessness in December 2015, but this year, 18 homeless veterans were counted in the survey. That’s a 27 percent increase when compared to 2017. As of May 7, several months after the count, nine veterans are dealing with homelessness in the county. Providers have found housing resources for all of them.

Leventhal said the county’s next hurdle is to address youth homelessness. It’s more difficult to keep track of young people who are homeless because they’re more likely to be staying with friends or relatives, even though they don’t have stable housing.

He has proposed allocating funding in the fiscal 2019 budget to create a drop-in shelter for homeless youth. The shelter would be a “first point of contact” with homeless youth, and a place where they could access services, take a shower and interact with peers. The shelter would be staffed by other youth, and Leventhal said if the funding is approved, it could open by the year’s end.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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