Economic Disparity and Youth Homelessness on the Rise in D.C.


    About 40% of Americans plan on moving to another location within the next five years. And although the D.C. metro area has long been a popular destination, the district’s problems with poverty may be driving some potential residents away.

    According to the Journal Star, the number of teens and young adults living on the streets is increasing in Washington, D.C.

    The federal government defines “homeless youth” as individuals under the age of 25 years old who are living without a home, parent, or guardian. Naomi Smoot, executive director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, states that there is no one single reason why the city is experiencing a large uptick in youth homelessness, but the heroin epidemic, the stagnant economy, and the high cost of housing are certainly contributing factors.

    “As a result, growing numbers of young people are having to take care of themselves on the street at a very young age,” added Smoot.

    When homebuyers are looking at a new community, the walkability of the location is a major benefit. Approximately 56% of millennials and 46% of baby boomer homebuyers admit that they would prefer to live in more “walkable neighborhoods.” But as the district’s drug, crime, homeless, and economic issues continue to increase, homebuyers won’t consider too many (affordable) D.C. neighborhoods walkable.

    However, homelessness isn’t the only reason people are reluctant to move to the nation’s capital. The Washingtonian reports that part of the reason movers are cautious about relocating to D.C. is the overwhelmingly noticeable presence of the federal government.

    “I think it would be a good idea to move most of the federal government,” said Warren Davidson, founder of an industrial-tool company. “Five of the richest counties in America are right here. Clearly the city does not generate that proportion of wealth in America. It’s skewed.”

    Of course, D.C.’s federal government does do a lot of good for the area in some respects. As reported by the Pentagram, federal agencies are implementing service programs in order to reduce hunger across the D.C. area. The Feds Feed Families campaign delivered more than 12.5 million pounds of non-perishable grains, proteins, sugars, and juices to families in need over the summer.

    In addition to homebuyers looking for walkable neighborhoods, about 48% of homebuyers report that their most desired feature in a home is energy-efficiency. Many people are also just as concerned about the surrounding communities and the stores, hospitals, and businesses in the area.

    According to The Washington Post, roughly 70% of D.C. supermarkets are located in the wealthiest and whitest neighborhoods. Unfortunately, that’s just one example of the growing economic disparity in the nation’s capital.

    “This disparity reflects both the growing economic and racial inequality in the city and the shortfalls in the District’s efforts to solve the problem,” said a report by D.C. Hunger Solutions. “This disparity also exacerbates food insecurity and poor health outcomes for the District’s most vulnerable residents.”

    While some people may be shunning D.C. as a permanent home, there’s no sign that housing prices are going to decrease any time soon.