by guest blogger Ms. Smith

My name is Ms. Smith, and I have lived in the District of Columbia my entire life. I am 25 years old, and am the mother of a 9 year-old son and an 8 year-old daughter. I am writing this important statement because my delicate situation will have a direct effect on my beloved children. The pain is too deep to form words, as many others and I are immersed in poverty. No one can hear our cries, nor understand our fallen tears.

For many years, I have tried to find a place to stay for my kids and myself, but it has been an uphill battle. I work nearly 7 days a week as a hair stylist to provide for us, but my income is never enough to make ends meet. With all due respect to the system, it has failed to provide a positive support for myself and many young mothers, who are caught up in a vicious cycle of life. The waiting list for an apartment is way too long; drugs, guns, and crime infest my neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods. I truly do not want to expose my kids to this homeless life.

My family support is crumbling every second of the day. Until September 2011, my children and I had lived with my mother, but she put us out when she closed her apartment to move in with her boyfriend. I was not able to find an apartment I could afford on my own, so I was forced to place my children with a cousin while I slept in the apartments of different friends or, most nights, in my car. With nowhere else to turn, I applied for shelter at the Family Resource Center (FRC) on September 30, 2011. Told that no families were being placed until the weather dipped below freezing, I didn’t get any help. At my case worker’s recommendation, I called the FRC and left a message every Thursday until the second week of January to tell them that my family still was in desperate need for shelter. No one from the FRC ever called me back or placed us in shelter, even though I know there were many days and nights that were freezing during that time. In late March, I called the shelter hotline. Someone from the FRC called me back, but said they wouldn’t provide us shelter because a hypothermia alert was not in effect. He did, though, say one thing that he could do: Call the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) and have my kids removed if I couldn’t provide them with a safe place to sleep. Throughout the evening, I received several more calls from the FRC staff person to see if I had found a place for the night, warning that CFSA “is on the way.” I was afraid that my kids would be taken from me just because I cannot afford housing in DC. I didn’t call the hotline back that night, and I won’t be calling it again. The only thing my kids need to be safe is a home.