The new Winter Plan released by the District of Columbia’s Interagency Council on Homelessness predicts a 16 percent increase in the number of homeless families seeking services in Washington, D.C, from last year. The report estimates that more than 820 homeless families will need access to resources once the temperature drops below freezing.

The recently approved Winter Plan outlines how the city will ensure it fulfills its obligation under D.C. law to shelter adults and families to keep residents from suffering hypothermia and possible death.

With the expected increase in homeless families, social services and shelters around the city will work more to meet the increased need.

“Clearly, this winter, there was an emergency in the number of beds available for families and youth in the city during the winter, and there’s no reason to think that same situation won’t happen again. So this city is trying to increase capacity through a number of different strategies, but the winter’s right around the corner, and there is a greater demand for shelter than the system has to meet,” James Beck, the development director at Sasha Bruce Youthwork, said.

According to The Washington Post, the expected increase might also delay the closing of D.C. General emergency shelter, which was expected to close this year.

Homelessness also includes families and individuals moving from home to home or living in motels for extended periods of time. These families who do not live in shelters also have access to social services in the city. ThriveD.C., a charity organization that gives aid to struggling individuals also saw an increase of about 15 to 20 percent in the population it serves with assistance during the day.

“We’ve experienced a definite increase in the last 18 months — actually, we could probably say more than that, a couple years, because we have had a number of other agencies that are in our neighborhood close,” ThriveD.C. Development Director Jennifer Paul said.

Adding to the difficulty in accommodating the increased number of homeless families, last winter saw a pattern of homeless families staying longer than expected in shelters due to problems finding affordable apartments, requiring additional space in community centers and motels around the city. The continued increase is linked to the recent economic recession, which in turn affects jobs and incomes.

“The recession has lingered for the poorest segments of our city, and people are struggling – people that were marginally housed have not seen the bounce back that some are claiming in the stock market or the wider economy, so the city continues to have extreme poverty level in particular quadrants,” Beck said. “It’s just a fact that their housing stock is limited; it’s finite, and yet the numbers of people that continue to be victims of the recession are not becoming less.”

At Georgetown, Hoya Outreach Programs and Education work to serve homeless families with programs like Mobile Soup Kitchen and Hoya Dental.

“If any families are stuck outside and they bring their kids to the park, we have a fan through Mobile Soup Kitchen that goes out every other Saturday that brings soup and bananas,” HOPE Co-Chair Gianna Maita (COL ’15) said. “HOPE Dental puts together dental hygiene kits for children and adults and those are the ways that we can contribute in a more tangible way.”

Maita stressed the importance of promoting awareness of these problems outside the front gates.

“Raising awareness on campus is really important for HOPE. Students are frequently thinking about a lot of other problems that are big global programs, and that’s great, but it’s really important to recognize that there are these issues within our own city,” Maita said.

According to Paul, ThriveD.C. is dependent on volunteers, a need that will only increase further at the temperature dips.

“We have a very vigorous volunteer base and an ongoing need for volunteers,” Paul said.

Hoya Staff Writer Kshithij Shrinath contributed reporting.

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