Homeless shelters in the nation’s capital stand to operate a little easier this year after being awarded critical funding from the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The funding, in excess of $18.5 million, is in accordance with the Obama administration’s comprehensive plan to prevent and end homelessness, and will help to keep 65 local shelters afloat.

Announcement last week of the funding preceded the annual nationwide project, “Let’s Make Everybody Count,” in which thousands of volunteers in almost every city and county conduct a one-night count of homeless people. Based on the January 2009 count, some 643,000 individuals were deemed homeless.

“There is a tremendous need on our streets and in our shelters among those experiencing both long-term homelessness as well as families confronting a sudden economic crisis,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said in a statement. “These grants are the life blood for thousands of local housing and service programs that are doing the heavy lifting to meet President Obama’s goal of ending homelessness.”

This past summer, more than a dozen federal agencies and offices that comprise the Interagency Council on Homelessness submitted the “Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness” report to Obama and the Congress. The report will be instrumental in crafting an agenda to end chronic homelessness by 2015. Another component would end homelessness five years later among children, youth and families.

In addition, HUD announced this fall that it would renew funding through its Continuum of Care programs to local shelters as quickly as possible so as to avoid interruption of federal assistance.

Meanwhile, according to HUD statistics, 78 percent of all sheltered homeless people are adults; 61 percent are male and 62 percent are members of a minority group.