Homelessness and Housing in Washington, DC

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has been very vocal in her plans to continue to address the District’s housing and homelessness crisis. With last year’s $100 million investment in the city’s Housing Production Trust Fund, the mayor demonstrated her commitment to increasing investments to improve services to D.C.’s homeless families and individuals.

Last week, Mayor Bowser unveiled a plan to close the dilapidated D.C. General Homeless Shelter and replace it with several homeless shelters across the District.

The Bowser administration is advocating that homeless families be housed in temporary shelters located in neighborhoods throughout the city.

All of the shelters – one in each ward – are projected to be on line by September of 2018, with the earliest, a facility for homeless women, potentially being ready sometime this year.

Up to 50 families would be housed in each shelter facility.


A series of community meetings in which residents and stakeholders were able to voice their concerns about the proposed shelters were held across the city.  During the meetings, there were contentious debates regarding where the shelters should be located, the type of shelters (apartment vs. dormitory) that should be built, and whether or not the shelters should have private or communal bathrooms. However, despite the differences in opinion, the majority of residents and stakeholders agree that there is no greater time than now to address the city’s homeless crisis.

The high rate of family homelessness is attributable to both the recession and the high cost of housing. The economic downturn resulted in a lot of layoffs while the cost to buy or rent in the District continues to rise, resulting in a recipe ripe for homelessness. The housing affordability crisis in the District is at an all-time high, and has a tremendous impact on the economic well-being of its residents. While discussions continue regarding the placement of the proposed shelters, the conversation must also include recommendations for preserving and constructing affordable housing in the District.

Today, there are hundreds of families being housed in shelters and motels throughout the District. There are also D.C. families residing in motels in Maryland. This large number of families without permanent housing is representative of the dire consequence of the lack of affordable housing, in addition to a number of other contributing factors such as domestic violence, addiction, mental illness, and unemployment.

While the District continues to implement plans to tackle the lack of affordable housing, it must simultaneously address the social service needs of at-risk families in order to ensure that barriers do not prevent them from accessing and maintaining housing.

LISC DC works with nonprofit partners, including So Others Might Eat (SOME) and Transitional Housing Corporation (THC), that utilize a two-prong approach to address the economic and social conditions that contribute to family homelessness. Both SOME and THC provide housing and comprehensive support services to homeless and at-risk families. We will continue to support our partners and invest in the resources and services required to help create the conditions in which temporary housing is no longer needed.