There is a lot more going on in the nation’s capitol outside of politics as usual. Here in the DC Metro area, you’ll find many of the same problems found in major cities across the nation, as well as a few that may be unique to the area due its cosmopolitan and ethnically diverse nature. Some of the trends happening in this city may be surprising.
Changing City Demographics
One of the most surprising things about this mid-size city of approximately 600,000 in population, is the changing faces of the city. In the year 2011, for the first time in more than 50 years, the city’s population of black residents fell bellow the 50% mark. For the most part, this change has not caused any uproar, but it does sometimes pit some of the older residents who tend to be African-Americans, against newcomers who tend to be rather affluent and white. Asian and Hispanic populations have also risen in the past decade.
Homeless Residents Still a Problem for the City
One problem city leaders would like to see go away shows no signs of easing, the rising homeless population. On one recent winter night, more than 4,200 were packed into emergency homeless shelters that are located across DC and Maryland – this is an increase of 100% from just one year ago.
A stagnant economy and higher housing costs are to blame and the crisis has gotten so bad, that during this cold winter the city has taken the unusual step of opening recreation centers up as refuges for the homeless. And the situation is not expected to ease for over a year, costing the city tens of millions of dollars annually. City officials are trying to stem this tide with programs that offer a hand-up, and not a hand-out, with requirements for job training and education designed to end chronic homelessness. It remains to be seen whether this will work over the long-run.
Social Changes Affect DC Residents
The Census of 2000 found that over 8% of the adult population of District of Columbia are gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Perhaps as a result of these changing demographics, in 2010, same-sex marriage became legal in the nation’s capitol.
At that time, it was only the 6th place in the United States where same-sex marriages were legal, joining Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Opponents are still up for a fight however; even after losing in the 1st round in the courts. The law survived attempts to block it in Congress and it promises to have some far reaching implications. It serves as a notice to state governments that gay voters have more clout and are gaining power. It could also serve as a beacon to gay couples in the area that DC is the place to be where they can enjoy equal rights under the law that they may not have where they currently reside.
Washington DC is one of the most dynamic cities and metro areas in the nation, and what happens here affects what happens in other parts of the country. That is one thing that won’t be changing here any time soon.