You may have read the Washington Post article by Petula Dvorak this past weekend, “600 homeless children in D.C., and no one seems to care.” In the article, Ms. Dvorak highlights an alarming discrepancy between the glowing financial health of the District and the fact that there are hundreds of children sleeping at the DC General Shelter. Unfortunately, these children are not alone. According to the most recent data from DC Action for Children’s Kids Count, there are actually over 1800 kids who are homeless in the District.
The good (and hopeful) news is that the problem of child homelessness is completely solvable! As Ms. Dvorak and Mayor Gray have both pointed out recently, the District is economically stronger than ever. With a $417 million surplus for 2012 and an expected surplus of $240 million for this year, allowing children to grow up in a shelter is a decision born of priority and not of necessity.
The solution is simple. Prioritize an investment in long-term affordable housing programs that would serve the lowest income DC residents. Programs like the Permanent Supportive Housing Program and the Local Rent Supplement Program have been proven to work but have sadly gone underfunded in the past few years. A meaningful investment in these programs will get families out of the shelters, keep children off the streets, and lead to better results in education, in health, and in job growth for all DC residents. As we’ve mentioned before on our blog, last Spring the DC Council invested a modest $4 million into the Local Rent Supplement Program to house over 250 families experiencing homelessness. That’s hundreds of children who will have a stable home in which to thrive thanks to a relatively small amount of money. Many of these families are still waiting to be housed, but for them, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Last week, Mayor Gray announced a commitment to invest $100 million in affordable housing, but did not give any details about how that money would be invested and if it would be used to serve homeless families and individuals in the District. As DC residents, let’s make sure that it is.
Here’s what you can do: Become a member of the Fair Budget Coalition (FBC), and join over 70 organizations, concerned residents, and people impacted by poverty that continue to engage in advocacy and organizing around social and economic justice in the District of Columbia. Follow both the Legal Clinic and FBC on Twitter. In the coming weeks, stay tuned to learn about ways in which you can help influence decision-makers and ensure that the message from the District is loud and clear: There are 1800 homeless children in D.C., and we care.