Ed. note: The city’s Department of Human Services (DHS) is currently in the process of implementing the D.C. Council’s mandate to move families from the shelter system into housing in order to open up much needed shelter space for new families this summer. However, the city’s progress has been too slow for many “priority 1” families who remain without a safe place to go in the meantime. Ms. S’s is one such family.
by Guest Blogger Ms. S*
I’m 21 years old, have two children, and my family is currently homeless. My daughter is 5 years old. She attends school and spends many of her afternoons with my grandmother. My son is 1 year old and has been diagnosed with asthma, a congenital heart condition, and a cleft foot — disabilities that are made worse by our current situation. I have a third child on the way with my husband, Dave. Dave and I married in December of 2011 and have been struggling to find work and shelter since then. We’re searching for a stable and safe situation in which to raise our children but we haven’t been able to find anything despite looking for months.
I haven’t had a very easy road to travel. Many of my extended family members have problems with drugs, including my mother. I lived with my grandmother until I was 15 years old. I had my daughter at 16 and was moved to foster care until I was 18 years old, caring for my daughter while I was there. When I was 18, I moved back in with my mother because I had nowhere else to go. Her drug use and other problems eventually forced me to move out. When I had my son, I was living with his father who was abusive to me. After an incident during which he assaulted me, I called the police and moved with my children into temporary shelter through the Crime Victims’ Resource Center, but like I said, it was only temporary.
Dave and I have been searching for a stable place to live and for steady work in the past year. He’s trained in EMT work and has applied for several positions in the DC area but there are always too many applicants and not enough spots, so he’s been unsuccessful so far. Adding to our problems, my doctors have identified my pregnancy as high-risk and have recommended that I be on bed rest until November – advice that is hard to follow without a stable place to live. We rely on TANF and Food Stamps as our only income to survive.
We stayed with my mother-in-law for a time, but her home was smoke-filled and crowded already and soon we were asked to leave. Every single day is a struggle and we’re never sure if we’ll have a safe place to sleep at night. I’m worried about the health and safety of my children in this summer heat.
We sought shelter from the city and have been classified as “Priority 1” by the Family Resource Center but haven’t been placed anywhere. I’m also on several other waitlists for low rent housing but so far, there hasn’t been any good news. We’ve contacted our city leaders, but no one seems to have any solution for us. I feel like I’m doing everything I can and coming up against a brick wall every time.
As each day passes, Dave and I continue our search for safe housing, and we won’t give up because we simply cannot afford to. We just hope our city leaders will come through for us.
* The names of Ms. S and her husband have been redacted/changed to protect their privacy.