February 3, 2014; Washington Post

Our coverage earlier this week of homeless families crowding hotels and motels in Massachusetts shouldn’t be read as though the Bay State has a unique challenge. For some reason, homelessness is increasing in many parts of the country.

In Washington, D.C., according to Brigid Schulte of the Washington Post, this winter has seen an “unexpected and unprecedented rise in family homelessness in the District…bringing homelessness to levels not seen since the crises of the 1980s.” David Berns, the director of the Department of Human Services in the District, anticipates 1,000 new homeless families this winter and reports that the D.C. General Hospital family shelter is full, as are “all the inexpensive hotel rooms in the city.” In fact, D.C. has been placing homeless families in two Maryland hotels, but Maryland officials have protested, resulting in plans to move the families back to D.C. With the need to find space in D.C. for the 110 families that were sent to Montgomery County and Prince Georges County, the District’s latest plan is to use two city-owned recreation centers where the families will sleep on cots in open spaces.

For the 475 families living in hotels and motels because the 285 family rooms at D.C. General are full, the situation is very difficult. For them, getting their kids to schools in the District from hotels in Silver Spring or Cheverly is challenging and long. For D.C. officials, providing services to homeless families scattered around the region is similarly challenging.

“It sounds bad, and it’s worse than it sounds,” Berns told the Post. That’s becaus