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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs