The following is adapted from testimony given by our own LaJuan Brooks, Administrative Assistant at WLCH, at the October 26th hearing on the Local Rent Supplement Program.
My name is LaJuan Brooks and I am a Local Rent Supplement Program (LRSP) voucher holder. I have been a participant of the program since 2006. It was because of this particular voucher that I, along with my family, was able to move out of the District Family Shelter System and into our own home.
My family and I were homeless for approximately four years from 2002 to 2006 when I received my tenant-based voucher. I was gainfully employed at the time but could not afford any suitable housing in the very city that I grew up in. For my family, it seemed as if we would forever be in a circle of poverty. Fortunately, I was able to move out of the family shelter and into a stable home thanks to this voucher. I did not have to worry about my rent being more than my income. I did not have to worry about facing homelessness again. And I did not have to worry about where my family and I would lay our heads or if we would even be able to be together. This was an opportunity for me to move forward in a positive way in spite of all the set-backs.
Mayor Gray, please reconsider any ideas you may have about discontinuing this vital program. There is a major lack of affordable housing in the District. There are many families whose dynamics are very similar to what mine were. For these families, as it was for me, this voucher could be the segue out of poverty and homelessness. It could and would provide for that single mother or father an opportunity to give their child a stable home. It could provide an opportunity for a single mother or father to be gainfully employed or to even return to school without having to worry about how the rent will be paid on a limited income. It is nearly impossible to succeed without the comfort of knowing that you will have a safe, secure, stable, and affordable place for you and your family.
I am hopeful that you will take into consideration what our homeless situation may look like if the decision is made to not fund LRSP. It not only affects me on a personal level but from a professional perspective as well. I work at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless and daily I receive calls from clients who are working, be it part-time or full-time, and who can barely scrape by. The threat of eviction looms constantly over them. A program like LRSP would be ideal for these people, just as it was for me.
Finally, as a District resident I am truly shocked that the Mayor is even considering shutting down or reducing funding to this program. However, I remain hopeful that this is just a passing idea and that he will see how vital a program like LRSP is for the constituents he was voted into office to serve.