D.C.-area homeless population declines
The homeless population in the D.C. area declined slightly over the past year - the first drop since 2004, an annual survey has found.
Researchers found 11,762 people living in shelters or on the streets in Washington and its surrounding counties, according to a report released by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. That represents a 3 percent reduction from last year's tally of 12,126.
The survey, released this week, found that an additional 4,696 formerly homeless people are living in permanent housing programs, up 37 percent since 2004.
The drop in homeless people and the increase of those who have found permanent housing are "encouraging indicators that, with the appropriate commitment of resources and services, the region can reduce or even end homelessness," said Michael Ferrell, chairman of the council's homeless services committee.
The results were compiled from data collected on a single day last winter from shelters, rural encampments, soup kitchens and housing programs. The survey is designed to provide an annual snapshot of changes in the region's homeless population.
The report's analysts found that more efforts are needed to continue reducing homelessness, including increased emergency rental assistance, a greater emphasis on affordable housing, and living-wage jobs.
Overall, a quarter of the region's homeless individuals and 43 percent of homeless people in families were working, the report said.
"It's distressing to think that people are getting up and going to work every day and cannot afford housing," Ferrell said.
The jurisdictions that participated in the survey include Frederick, Montgomery and Prince George's counties; the District of Columbia; and Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties and the city of Alexandria in Virginia.
Although the homeless population dipped overall from 2006 to 2007, the situation fluctuated among jurisdictions.
In Frederick, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties, the homeless population increased. Homelessness decreased slightly in Montgomery County, Alexandria and Arlington, with more noticeable declines in the district and Prince George's County.
Two boys charged in playground fire
Two boys have been charged with setting a fire in May that destroyed a school playground.
The boys, 12 and 14, were turned in by fellow students and arrested Wednesday at their homes.
The fire May 26 caused $40,000 in damage to a playground that was built eight years ago at Gilpin Manor Elementary School in memory of a student who died.
The boys, not named because of their ages, were charged with malicious burning and were being held at a youth facility in Chestertown, the Cecil Whig reported.
Deputy State Fire Marshal Joseph Zurolo Jr. told the newspaper that other students gave authorities information to arrest the two boys. He said authorities aren't sure about a motive.
'Wig Lady' guilty of fraud
A Massachusetts woman dubbed the "Wig Lady" because she donned disguises while swindling bank customers pleaded guilty yesterday to bank fraud and aggravated identity theft in U.S. District Court in Greenbealt.
Carol Silva, 55, of Westbury, Mass., used stolen credit cards, checks, account numbers, driver's licenses and social security cards to steal up to $30,000 from 10 people in the Washington area between March and July last year. She could receive a maximum sentence of 32 years in prison when she is sentenced Aug. 29.
Authorities believe Silva was part of a larger ring that would pick women's pockets or steal their personal belongings from places such as supermarkets or the Washington Metro.