The number of homeless families is on the rise across the United States.
One of the areas with the biggest increase is Washington D.C., the nation's capital.
the last year a regional government planning agency says the number of
homeless families increased by 15 percent in the D.C. area, the biggest jump in
Many experts blame the nation's economic downturn as well as a local high cost of living.
most visible of the homeless: older single men and women who refuse to
stay in shelters. They pass the day in public parks and on street
Single mother Monica Walker picks her children up at
their Washington school. This family is among the fastest-growing
group of the area's homeless.
Monica Walker and her four kids have been homeless for two years.Walker
explains, "I had nowhere go, so I was declared homeless, nowhere for my
kids to go and I needed help and I knew I needed help."
In 2007, Monica lost her job and her apartment to a drug addiction.
Now she has picked up the pieces and lives in one of Community of Hope
's transitional apartments.
have something that I can call mine now. Even though it's transitional
shelter but I can actually say to my kids, 'OK, let's go home,” exclaims
The local non-profit organization also helped get Monica
treatment for her addiction. Soon, her family will move into their own
three bedroom house in Washington.
"In a shelter, you can spend
your money and you are broke and you are living basically day by day.
This program helps you to live independently and shows you how you can
save your money," declares Walker.
Kelly Sweeney-McShane is
Executive Director of Community of Hope. She says, at any given time,
there are 200 to 300 families ready to move into transitional housing.
real solution, she says, is to provide permanent homes.
Sweeney-McShane explains, “When they are in those apartments, then they
are much more open to getting assistance with whether there are mental
health issues or their children have problems in school or substance
abuse issues. But that's a better place to provide those services than
in a group shelter."
Michael O'Rourke runs a homeless shelter in
Arlington, Virginia, a Washington suburb that has seen a 25 percent increase
in homeless families. There are 10 apartments here and he says local
organization also provides residents here with courses that teach them
how to live independently.
O’Rourke says, "They move into our
"adopt-a-family" program where the rent is subsidized for up to two
years through HUD [Housing and Urban Development] grants, and they [the
families] are able to accumulate some wealth and continue to develop
the life skills, the business skills, the job skills they need to move
In Washington, Donna Matthews is considered
one of the success stories. She and her son Jalen now live in a two
bedroom apartment, subsidized by the D.C. organization.
humbly says, "Now I managed to have money saved up, my son is in
private school. Today I am able to go to sleep and have food in my
refrigerator. To me this is just like a palace, my palace and my son's
Donna says she is on her to way to a new life. In
September, she plans to study to become an event planner. She says she
will never be homeless again.