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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More