Friday March 15th of 2013 was a day for DC residents to excercise their First Amendment rights by using a small demonstration. In front of the Wilson building, which houses the local governemnt officals offices- including DC Mayor Vincent Gray, 540 cardboard houses were lined up in the morning hours. All of the decorarted houses had been painted by memebrs of an advocay group to stand up for fair use of the city's new budget. The newly announced budget for 2014 will include $100 million to help end homelessness.
The Housing First program is one that offers affordable housing to people who are likely to enter street shelters in the area. It began in 2008 under Mayor Fenti. Up to " 90% of persons are retentially receiving services", according to one advocate I spoke with, Katie. Services like this are a needed one when there is no other way to get housing to those who are in the shelters. Another advocate Kurt Runge, told me " over 100 people came out ( to watch the demonstration on Friday)".
One resident who is receiving housing from Housing First became an advocate and was at the park to speak to the public about the needs of the future of the program. Jhon McDermott told me " Housing First works!" This housing opprituinty to him is why is no longer in a street shelter and has a home to live in. Jhon had gathered is own ideas about how the city should be spending the $100 million budget. He told me that " 14th St. ( in the North West) is now full of high rises.". This is an area where the homeless could be housed if new apartment homes could be build there.
While the Nation's Capital is making changes to help end homeless not every one approves of what is being done. Certain areas are housing people in renovated buuildings, such the family shelter that opened two years ago in the old DC General Hospital. The idea to build new housing has not been brought up to the city's council for a vote or an address. Yet the idea amoung those who have been housed is a popular one. Housing First is asking for 13 1/2 million dollars to hous 540 persons in new apartments. It is agencies like this one and others like Friendship Place and People's Fairness Coalition, started by Jhon McDermott, who are gaining the support of advocating for those who are homeless.
While the budget is being debated the poplulatin effected is aware it needs to speak out. Sequester cuts were one thing holding back the fight to end homelessness but this new budget is apromise more can be done than ever before. The public is encouraged to get involved and contact elected officals. One voice alone can not represent the thousands who go on every day being homeless.