Homelessness and Poverty in DC

Bus stopWho is homeless?

  • Approximately 15,000 people are homeless in Washington DC over the course of a year, one of the highest rates in the country.
  • The number of homeless families has increased more than 40% since 2009.
  • 32% of the DC unaccompanied homeless population report a history of substance abuse and 28% severe mental illness, 12% suffer from chronic health problems, 23% have a physical disability.
  • 15% of the homeless in DC are veterans.
  • 20% of the homeless single adults are employed and 25% of adults in homeless families are employed.

Why are so many homeless?

  • 30% of DC children under 18 live at or below the poverty line ($22,000 for a family of four).
  • In the District a worker earning the minimum wage ($8.25/hour) must work approximately 132 hours per week, 52 weeks a year or earn $27/hour at 40 hours a week, to afford a 2 bedroom apartment at market rate ($1412/month).
  • The DC unemployment rate was 8.6% in August 2013, much higher than the rate in the surrounding metropolitan area.

 Is there enough shelter?

  •  Year round there are approximately 2,259 emergency shelter beds for single adults in DC and 330 emergency shelter units for families .
  • For most applicants the wait for emergency family shelter is at least 6 months.
  • Between November 2012 and March 2013 alone, 661 families applied for emergency shelter, 240 of which were turned away.

Is there enough housing?

  • Washington DC is the least affordable jurisdiction among all states in the US, in terms of housing costs.  Its rental market has only a 3.5% vacancy rate, one of the lowest in the country.
  • 80% of extremely low income DC households (incomes less than 30% of area median income), and almost 50% of all DC households, pay more than 30% of their income for rent.  This is by definition “unaffordable.”
  • The typical low income household spends almost 70% of their income on housing.
  •  The number of low-cost rental units in DC has dropped by 50% since 2000.
  • As of April 2013 there were a total of 70,000 households on the wait list for the DC Housing Authority’s Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher Program.  25,000 on the wait list describe themselves as homeless.
  • The number of public housing units in the city has decreased by 4,000 units since 2000 to only 8000 units in 2010. The average voucher wait is 20 years.

2013 Data collected and documented by the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless.  More complete information.