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In D.C., Homelessness Is Up, But More Families Are Finding Permanent Housing

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Homelessness is still on the rise in D.C., but so is the number of families leaving homeless shelters. That's according to Laura Zeilinger, director of the D.C. Department of Human Services.

“We've had 16 percent more families exit to permanent housing over the course of 2015 than we did the year before, in 2014,” Zeilinger says.

In another change over last year, D.C. families can now get help outside of hypothermia season.

“Families have access to shelter not only when it's cold outside, but when they need it,” Zeilinger says. “We also launched new prevention initiatives and have provided earlier supports that have kept families from having to come into the shelter system.”

As this unseasonably warm December begins to feel like winter, Zeilinger says there shouldn't be the same seasonal spike that shelters have seen in past years.

Families aren't the only ones getting a boost: In 2015, more than 680 homeless veterans moved into permanent housing, compared to 456 last year. That's a 49 percent increase.

Zeilinger says the results are the product of a coordinated entry system that teams up the VA with groups that provide outreach, meals, case management and shelter.

"We think we'll hopefully, early into 2016, be able to announce that we've ended all homelessness among veterans,” Zeilinger says.

There are still plenty of challenges. At the top of the list: securing more affordable housing.

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