Authorities clear encampment in Northwest DC amid increase in homelessness

Workers moved in to clear a major homeless camp in D.C. Thursday morning.  

It comes after new data shows in D.C., Virginia and Maryland, the homelessness problem is getting worse, not better, despite millions of dollars being spent on the issue. 

The homeless encampment was on E and 20th Streets in Northwest. Around 10 a.m., officials from the District of Columbia cleared three sites and the National Park Service cleared four. People were told to take down their tents, gather up their stuff and move on.

 Both the NPS and D.C. officials say this clearing had been announced for days. 

When FOX 5 cameras were at the encampment site about two weeks ago, there were roughly 50 tents set up in the area. Now, there’s nothing but an empty patch of grass.

Ten years ago, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a plan to end homelessness in a decade. 

This year's budget has $32 million directed toward dealing with the homelessness issue, but Bowser told FOX 5 on Thursday that COVID derailed those 2014 plans.

RELATED: Homelessness in DC region rises for second consecutive year, report shows

"We have seen progress but we have seen more people unfortunately on the street post-COVID because of some of the policy changes that were required but I know that we have the infrastructure to get people housed," Bowser said. 

D.C. isn’t alone in struggling to fight homelessness. A new report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments shows there’s a 12% increase or an additional 1,078 homeless people on the streets in D.C., Maryland and Virginia since 2023. 

"This year all but one jurisdiction – that’s Fairfax County – saw an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness at the night of our ‘point in time count’ so it would appear we’re seeing a similar dynamic," said Hilary Chapman with the Metropolitan Council of Governments.

Analysts say the problem isn't going away and advocates of the homeless population tell FOX 5 that tearing down encampments only hides the problem.

"I think encampments shouldn’t be closed unless in the rarest of circumstances and if you do, make sure people are getting connected to housing or the type of shelter," said Adam Rocap, the Deputy Director of Miriam’s Kitchen.

 Some people who work in the area tell FOX 5 that while they don’t want to see anyone homeless, they are please to see the encampment come down citing the quality of life in this area and issues with mental health. 

FOX 5 reached out to the governors of Virginia and Maryland but we have not yet heard back.