A man waits for DC Central Kitchen to open in the early morning on Capitol Hill on Dec. 1. More than 5,000 volunteers a year help to prepare 3,000 meals a day 365 days a year at the kitchen.
During the past five years, as homeless populations declined a bit across the nation, Washington, D.C., saw a veritable boom in the number of people living on the streets.
In February 2007, the Department of Housing and Urban Development compiled the first Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. Known as AHAR, the report was the first of its kind to provide baseline data on homelessness, revealing population numbers and resource trends on a national and state level.
Released in June 2011, the latest report reveals that the nation’s homeless population fell 3 percent from 2006 to 2010, with detailed figures showing a reduction of almost 23,000 homeless people nationwide.
During the same period, homeless populations in the nation’s capital rose 23 percent. In 2006, D.C. recorded a homeless population of 5,320. By 2010, the population had increased to 6,540.
The report confirms what many local service providers have noticed for years.
“The homeless of this city are the other 1 percent,” said Neil Donovan, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. “These are people who don’t have a choice, and when [the Occupy Wall Street protesters] all leave Freedom Plaza, the homeless will still be there.”
While the city’s growth in homelessness can be attributed to various factors, local politicians fear much of the upsurge could be a result of a perception by homeless people in neighboring states that they can access better services in the District.
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