Rallying for housing for D.C.’s homeless

By Allison Keyes

WASHINGTON — There was standing-room only at Foundry United Methodist Church in D.C. on Saturday morning, where hundreds turned out for the Fulfill the Promise rally. Organizers are hoping to ensure affordable housing, end chronic homelessness, and make sure all who need help finding a place to live have somewhere to turn.

“There shouldn’t be … homelessness anywhere in the United States,” says Thomas Hood. He lived on the street for 13 years, but has housing now, through the nonprofit Community Connections. “I’ve got an apartment, washer, dryer and everything. I just have to come out to get food.”

The rally, sponsored by The Way Home Campaign and the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing & Economic Development’s Housing for All Campaign, included a call for District leaders to increase investments in affordable housing and strategies to end homelessness.

“We know that ending chronic homelessness is possible,” says Emily Buzzell of Miriam’s Kitchen. “D.C. has developed the Homeward DC plan to end chronic homelessness by 2017, but we are not on track to meet this goal.”

Among other things, organizers want to see the Home Purchase Assistance Program expanded, an increase in the Local Rent Supplement Program, and reforms in rent stabilization. They also want the District to commit at least $100 million in the Housing Production Trust Fund to build new housing and ensure the opportunity for tenants to preserve affordable housing.

Mayor Muriel Bowser, who spoke at the event, says the money is there.

“We’ve already committed to 100 million in affordable housing each and every year,” Bowser told reporters. “We were able to accomplish it last year and we’ll do it again this year.”

Patricia Samuels, who is homeless, barely sees her 15-year-old son because she has no place for them to live together. She says instead of spending money on things like the D.C. streetcar, the District should be putting up more subsidized housing.

“I think that would really help,” Samuels says.

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