WASHINGTON, D.C. — Volunteers and agencies across the Washington-metropolitan region took part in the annual point-in-time homeless count on Wednesday.
In Prince George’s County, teams of people spread out across the region from 6 a.m. until midnight.
DCW50’s Cameron Thompson went with one team, led by the Prince George’s County Department of Social Services Homeless Street Outreach Coordinator John Summerlot. At the first two locations, both bus loops, no one was found. At the third, a shopping center, they found a man who said he had been homeless since 1999 and living behind a dumpster for the past four years.
“We had a brief conversation, at first he wasn’t particularly interested in talking with us, but after a little bit of conversation, he warmed up,” said Summerlot, who added one of the difficulties of the count, and in general, providing help to people who are homeless, is building a relationship of trust with them. “We were able to talk to him, get the information we were looking for, provide him with some food and a blanket and connections, so that tomorrow morning, when I come back out here, I’ll be able to start connecting him with some more extensive services."
In Washington, D.C., volunteers began the count at 10 p.m. and went until 2 a.m. Thursday.
Laura Zeilinger, the Director of the D.C. Department of Human Services, said it’s important that homeless people aren’t just walked by or treated as invisible.
"We’re recognizing them, we’re counting them, so that we’re also then using that information to guide the allocation of resources that can help provide alternatives to living on the street,” added Zeilinger.
After last year’s count, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments reported the region had seen a 5% increase, or 12,215 people, in the homeless population.