Approximately 14 years ago, the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless drafted for the first time a document which has since come to be known simply as “The Fact Sheet.” This document was originally entitled “Homelessness in D.C.—Some Basic Facts”, but eventually evolved into the “Fact Sheet On Homelessness and Poverty.” It was initially conceived of and created for use in a new training, called “Homelessness 101”, for D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). While that training is now a permanent part of MPD’s training curriculum, and the Fact Sheet is still an integral part of those education efforts, its use as a source of facts and statistics about poverty in the District has grown far beyond that original purpose. Whenever we get an inquiry from the media or other social or legal services organizations asking for information about homelessness, or need some statistics to back up our advocacy efforts, the first place most of us look is to the latest version of the Fact Sheet. This document, which is updated on a regular basis because of the constantly changing nature of the information we cite, is more than mere facts and figures, however. It is a constant reminder to us, and to the people with whom we collaborate, about the entrenched nature of poverty in the District of Columbia. It is also damning evidence of just how little things have changed over the years in terms of the factors that contribute to the high rate of homelessness in Washington, D.C. The Fact Sheet consists of 4 sections: “Who is Homeless?”; “Why Are So Many Homeless?”; “Is There Enough Shelter?”; and “Is There Enough Housing?”, categories which attempt to get to the heart of both the causes and the face of homelessness in the District. One of the most telling statistics included in the Fact Sheet is the number of people who are homeless in D.C. over the course of a year, as well as the average number of homeless individuals in the city on any given night. The latter statistic is gleaned from a once a year “count” of homeless persons in the District every January, known as the “Point in Time” survey. For 2011, this number was 6,546 individuals, a figure which has actually decreased since the Fact Sheet was first created, but has not budged by more than a few hundred for the past several years. The more alarming statistic is the number of people who access the homeless services system over the course of a given year, which has stubbornly remained at approximately 16,000 people since the Fact Sheet was first created in 1998. That is close to 3% of the entire population of Washington, D.C., which is one of the highest...
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