News / USA

Washington DC Facing Family Homelessness Crisis

Washington DC Facing Crisis in Family Homelessnessi
X
April 04, 2013 11:08 PM
The city of Washington, D.C., is facing an ongoing crisis in family homelessness. The latest data show that more than a thousand families are homeless, including at least 1800 children, a number that has risen almost 75 percent since the recession started in 2008. Milena Djurdjic has details.
Milena Djurdjic
The city of Washington, D.C., is facing an ongoing crisis in family homelessness. The latest data show that more than a thousand families are homeless, including at least 1800 children, a number that has risen almost 75 percent since the recession started in 2008.
 
With access to affordable housing severely restricted by budget cuts and a rising cost of living, local shelters have been crammed full throughout the winter.
 
Disabled single father Marcaus Scales has been homeless for a year. Since November, he and his four-year-old daughter Saihy have been living in the D.C. General family shelter, a converted hospital complex that is now a temporary home for about 286 families.
 
“I just got to constantly reassure her that things will get better, that it is only for a little bit," he says. "I get the crying at night. I get the 'I need your comfort.' Sometimes she just wants to sleep with me; she just needs 'daddy contact.' Sometimes she doesn't. Sometimes she adjusts pretty well.”
 
Still, Saihy goes to school every day while her father studies psychology at a local college. With most of D.C. General's children in school or daycare while parents work or try to find work, during the day its hallways are empty. The shelter was recently the center of local media attention after the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, a non-profit advocacy group for impoverished residents of the nation's capital, reported on problems with heat and pest infestation.
 
“Every family will tell us, a shelter is not ideal, but is better than being on the street," says Amber Harding, an attorney for the clinic, whose mission is to help homeless individuals obtain housing, shelter and other services.
 
According to Harding, the streets of Washington are home to anywhere between 1,200 and 3,000 homeless children. Too often, she says, these families are forced to move from place to place on an almost daily basis in order to find a safe place to stay.
 
“The District [Washington, D.C.] is providing shelter to families only when the temperatures fall below 32 degrees [0 degrees Celsius]," she says. "So any night that is above 32 degrees, the District doesn’t have a legal obligation to provide shelter. And on those nights, we know that many families end up staying in bus stations, Greyhound stations, metro parks.”
 
For some shelter residents, however, there is reason to maintain hope. Sharisse Baltimore, for example, had called the shelter home for seven months — along with five of her six children. Her family was lucky enough to get into a voucher program that requires only 30 percent of her income for rent, enabling her to leave the shelter and move into her own house.

“One room, probably as big as this living room, there were six beds," she says, recalling the hardship of shelter life from a couch in her own living room. “I was overwhelmed, overjoyed. We actually came to look at the house and I had the keys, I had everything. I picked up the kids from the school and they were like 'Where are we going mommy?' When I let them out [they were asking] 'whose house is this?' I said this is our house.' 'Our house?' they said. 'Yes, honeys, this is our house.' I opened the door and they went running around."
 
But finding affordable housing is a major challenge, and some residents told council members at a recent hearing that gaining access to area shelters is even more difficult.
 
According to David Berns, the city’s Director of Human Services, Mayor Vincent Grey has already committed millions of dollars for homeless services, which, he says, is already starting to help.
 
“We are shortening the length of stay here," says Berns. "We have been able to reduce the number of placements into shelter from last year, so there is already positive effect that's taking place.”
 
Back at D.C. General, Marcaus Scales says homeless families should also be provided with training and education to keep any affordable housing they might acquire. In the meantime, however, he is not losing hope that he will soon find his way out.
 
“When you lose hope, you lose everything, and that is the only thing I have right now," he says. "And that’s a lot because it gives me my motivation to get up every day, go out and try my hardest to make this experience my last experience, and to really come out of this.”

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs