News / USA

Number of Families Seeking Shelter in DC Rises Sharply

Number of Families Seeking Shelter in DC Rises Sharplyi
|| 0:00:00
...  
🔇
X
Milena Djurdjic
April 04, 2014 3:35 PM
The number of homeless families in the Washington, D.C. shelter system more than doubled this past winter - well beyond earlier expectations of a 10-percent increase. The rise, which many consider unprecedented, has surprised some officials. But homeless advocates say it should have been anticipated and that the U.S. capital is becoming too pricey for the lowest-income families. Milena Durdic of VOA’s Serbian Service has the story.
Milena Djurdjic
The number of homeless families in the Washington, D.C. shelter system more than doubled this past winter - well beyond earlier expectations of a 10-percent increase.

The rise, which many consider unprecedented, has surprised some officials. But homeless advocates say it should have been anticipated and that the U.S. capital is becoming too pricey for the lowest-income families.

The fast-growing city has been adding more than 1,000 new residents each month, according to the mayor. But some say this development is leaving the city's poor behind.

Among them are Donnell Harris, his wife Stephanie Williams and their two children, who have been homeless for a year.

“We had our own apartment," he said. "I lost my job, bills got stacked up, rent got stacked up, so we were evicted. It’s been a struggle. Trying to get money just to have somewhere to sleep and have food for the children as well as get my oldest daughter to school.”

The District of Columbia is legally obligated to shelter the homeless when the temperatures drop below freezing. With DC General, a family shelter housed in an old hospital complex, already filled up at the beginning of the winter, the city had to rent more than 400 motel rooms.

Some of the families, including Harris', were placed in public recreation centers, where they slept on cots separated by portable partitions. They had to leave every morning and then wait for hours to reapply for shelter again, but only on freezing nights. A judge recently ordered the administration to stop housing families in recreation centers because, among other things, the practice may be harmful to children.

“It is an experience that no one should have to go through. No one,” he said.

Patty Mullahy Fugere, executive director of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, says the situation should have been anticipated - and blames the entire community for not addressing the problem.

“Families who were on the edge, who were presenting for shelter because they could no longer afford housing in a market like this," she said. "And now their situations are much worse.”

According to the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, the city has lost more than half of its low-cost rental units and 72 percent of its low-value homes over the last decade. This, as household incomes have not kept pace with the rise in housing costs.

Mayor Vincent Gray has pledged another $100-million investment in affordable housing, on top of last year’s $187-million commitment to preserve and build 10,000 units by 2020.

But Council member Jim Graham, who chairs the Committee on Human Services, says the city should be doing more. He warns of dire consequences if the problem of family homelessness is not resolved.

“Because, what we sow we will reap," he said. "And what we are sowing here is all manner of problems relating to child development, education, crime, you name it."

VOA’s request to the DC Department of Human Services to visit the shelters was left unanswered  - as well as a request for a comment from the DHS director on why there are so many homeless families this year.

Meanwhile, Donnell Harris and his family will no longer be provided shelter because the so-called "hypothermia season" is ending. The warmer temperatures, which many Washington residents welcome, will only bring more struggle for families in need of a home.

“We live day by day," he said. "Whatever comes, that’s what we got to deal with. If we don’t get money tomorrow, then I don’t know what we might do. It is confusing and it is hard.”

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs