Loudoun County has seen a dramatic rise in homelessness over the past year, according to a new report from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
The Homelessness in Metropolitan Washington survey, which featured a point-in-time count from earlier this year, found that the number of Loudoun households experiencing homelessness increased 18.5 percent from 2017 to 2018. Additionally, there was a 21 percent increase in the number of single adults experiencing homelessness and a 36 percent increase in the number of families.
The Loudoun County figures buck the regional trend, with the report showing an overall decrease in the number of households experiencing homelessness in the D.C. region.
The annual point-in-time count provides a single-day snapshot of a community’s homeless population as well as households that may be on the brink of becoming homeless, according to county officials. The count was coordinated locally by the Loudoun Continuum of Care, a community group of public, nonprofit and faith-based organizations that provide services to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
The Continuum of Care along with partner organizations conducted the annual count on Jan. 24 through manual surveys completed by staff at partnering organizations and staff from the Loudoun County Department of Family Services.
According to the report, 134 people were experiencing homelessness in Loudoun County during the 2018 count. Of those, 86 were in single-adult households and 15 were identified as family households. There were 27 children and 21 adults represented in the 15 family households.
On the night of the count, nine households were found unsheltered in Loudoun, and they were connected with resources to help them.
A bright spot in the survey found homelessness among county veterans decreased by 16 percent compared to 2017.
Pinpointing and counting the homeless population – both in Loudoun and beyond – is known to be a challenge given the fluidity in the lives of those involved.
“They didn't surprise me,” Donna Fortier, CEO of Mobile Hope, said about the numbers in the report. She added that the statistics “certainly don't capture the true number of homelessness.”
Mobile Hope, a nonprofit that supports children and young adults who are precariously housed, homeless, or at risk, living in Loudoun, estimates there are as many as 2,000 “precariously housed” children living in the county, quoting a statistic that was gathered with the aid of Loudoun County Public Schools.
Fortier said while the homelessness figures “may not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, it's certainly a lot for the wealthiest county in the country.”
County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) said she doesn't necessarily think homelessness is on the rise in Loudoun, but rather that the methods for counting and researching local people who are homeless have improved.
Randall praised the county's new director of family services, Glenda Blake, for raising awareness about the issue.
“The results of the point-in-time count will help inform our decision-making for specific types of housing needs and areas of program development,” Blake said. “This will include community outreach to raise public awareness of the services we offer to help prevent homelessness.”
Randall, Fortier and Amy Owen, executive director of the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties, all agreed homelessness in Loudoun – like hunger and a lack of charitable giving – is partly a problem of awareness.
Because Loudoun is an affluent area with a high household income, people aren't always aware of societal problems within the county, the chairwoman said.
“If you don't live it, you don't see it,” Fortier added. “People really need to do their due diligence, meet with organizations, spread awareness. People still don't believe we have this problem in Loudoun County, but it is a problem.”
Anyone who may be experiencing a housing crisis is encouraged to contact the county's Department of Family Services at 703-777-0353 or visit www.Loudoun.gov/index.aspx?NID=1788 . More information is also available at www.MobileHope.org and www.VoaChesapeake.org.