A DC woman’s long road off the streets is finally over

A DC woman’s long road off the streets is finally over

Earlier this month, WTOP brought you the story of a D.C. woman’s long struggle to escape homelessness, despite having a housing voucher that should have landed her in a new home. Now, more than eight months after being awarded that voucher, 50-year-old Belinda Whitfield has a place to call home.

“It’s amazing and now I can have some stability instead of going from place to place,” Whitfield said.

Only days ago, Whitfield moved into a studio apartment in D.C.’s Eckington neighborhood. She signed a lease for the unit in September of last year, but the process of getting it approved and inspected by the nonprofit case workers helping her, the city and the D.C. Housing Authority led to numerous delays that led to several extra months of having to stay in shelters or on the streets.

“It’s frustrating, but you’ve got to keep going,” Whitfield said of the long wait to finally use her voucher. “If you have support, that helps as well. Because if you don’t have any support, they might really fall through the cracks.”

After hearing from Belinda and her daughter Bri Whitfield, who has been helping her mother in the application process, WTOP reached out to all those involved in the process in its series called “The Long Road Off the Streets.”

All of those involved in the process admitted Whitfield’s case was taking much longer than normal. Some of the slowdowns, according to the Whitfields, included inspectors having the wrong unit numbers, payments made on her behalf being delayed, and a lack of communication during a complicated process.

“Since you gave me the airtime, everything got expedited,” Whitfield said.

Bri said that after helping her mother through the process, she feels the voucher system needs to work better, especially when it comes to the DCHA determining whether an apartment is being offered at a reasonable price.

“That stopped us for several different apartment units, because we didn’t have a real, exact number,” Bri Whitfield said. “And we didn’t have a way we could put in the numbers ourselves to check before sending it to them.”

After signing leases four separate times, some of which expired due to delays in the process, Belinda said she’s thankful to finally be off the streets.

The frustration and desperation once seen on Belinda and Bri’s faces has been replaced with joy and gratitude as she was provided a tour of her new apartment.

Belinda Whitfield and her daughter Bri hug inside Belinda’s new apartment in D.C.’s Eckington neighborhood. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

For Bri, she said when she saw a picture of her mother moving into the apartment, her eyes filled with tears.

“I was like, ‘Wow, it really happened. She finally has a place with her name on the lease that she can call her own,'” Bri said.

For Belinda, opening the door to her new place for the first time put a big smile on her face.

“I was excited to see what the apartment really looked like when I got inside, and it was everything I wanted,” Belinda said.

As she stood inside her apartment, cherishing the view from a window that she could only look at from the outside for so long, she was grateful for those who helped in the process.

“It’s just like a dream come true,” Belinda said. “The view is really pretty.”

Belinda said she hopes many of the people she stayed with at the shelter get the same chance she’s been given for a fresh start. She said she has already started writing again, something that was once a passion of hers, and hopes to share her story and words of inspiration.

A GoFundMe has been started by Bri to help get Belinda back on her feet and “reestablish her life.”

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Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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