Plan Builds on Administration’s Gains in Making Homelessness Rare and Brief In Washington, DC
Mayor Muriel Bowser recently announced Solid Foundations DC, the Interagency Council on Homelessness Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Youth Homelessness. Solid Foundations DC is the city’s first ever data-driven plan focused on the needs of unaccompanied youth. The plan will serve as a roadmap for building an effective system of care for unaccompanied youth experiencing or at risk of homelessness, with the goal of ending youth homelessness by 2022. The Mayor was joined at the announcement by Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services HyeSook Chung and Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) Director Kristy Greenwalt.
“Ending homelessness in Washington, DC has been a top priority of mine from day one,” said Mayor Bowser. “The health, safety, and long-term success of our youth will have an impact on our entire community, and our DC values require that we continue finding ways to make homelessness in DC rare, brief, and non-recurring. By working together, we can build integrated systems that provide the support our young people need to stay healthy and succeed in school and life.”
Solid Foundations DC provides a framework for advancing intensive and coordinated work to prevent and end homelessness among youth by:
- providing essential definitions and key context on youth homelessness, including specific metrics to gauge problems and success;
- detailing what is known about the causes and costs of youth homelessness in DC, and how trends in the District compare to trends across the nation;
- explaining the results of data modeling completed as a planning tool to help estimate the types and number of interventions needed to meet the needs of young people experiencing homeless each year; and
- identifying key strategies needed to take existing programing in the community to the next level and build an effective systems approach for vulnerable youth.
Washington, DC is one of the first cities in the country to have a data-driven plan focused on ending youth homelessness. Young people experiencing homelessness are particularly vulnerable to trauma, have historically remained more hidden to the public eye, and are more reluctant to seek help. To create the best possible youth-specific strategy, in 2015 the ICH and other youth-serving agencies teamed up with nonprofit partners and community providers to initiate an annual census of unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness. While still difficult to estimate the incidence of youth homelessness on a national level, the idea of a youth census is an emerging best practice at the local level. The two years of youth census data collected provided a strong foundation for Solid Foundations DC.
“To better address complex issues like youth homelessness, we first need to fully understand the unique challenges faced by our city’s youth,” said Deputy Mayor Chung. “The youth census has dramatically increased our understanding of youth homelessness in the District and allows us to craft effective and responsive policies based on data.”
“For years, we have had some very strong youth-serving nonprofit service providers in our community, but we haven’t been functioning as a comprehensive system of care,” said Director Greenwalt. “The work undertaken to develop a youth coordinated assessment and referral system for youth, to plan and carryout the annual census, and ultimately to shape all of this information into a comprehensive plan has brought stakeholders together in a new way. This has been important, because we know that government alone can’t end homelessness—it will take all of us working together.”
Last week, the District released the 2017 Point-in-Time (PIT) count, which reflects the number of all persons and families experiencing homelessness in the District on January 25, 2017. Compared to the 2016 results, this year’s count indicates a 21.8 percent decrease in the number of families experiencing homelessness; a 2.7 percent decrease in the number of individuals experiencing homelessness; and a 10.5 percent decrease in the total number of people experiencing homelessness.
Over the past two years, the District has invested more per capita in affordable housing than any other jurisdiction in the country, committing more than $106 million to the construction and preservation of more than 1,200 housing units in the last fiscal year. Since taking office, Mayor Bowser has launched new homeless prevention services, preventing a shelter stay for almost 3,000 families; increased investments in permanent housing programs by nearly 60 percent; developed interim eligibility to provide immediate shelter for families in urgent need; helped more than 2,700 families avoid homeless services system altogether; and connected more than 1,800 veterans to permanent housing.