As I wrote awhile ago, the District has cut back on its emergency shelter space, even though shelters were full or over-capacity at the time. A coalition of service providers and advocates has been monitoring the situation. What they report is a true crisis.
During the last nine days in April:
- People were turned away from shelters 226 times–an average of 25 times per night.
- On one of the colder nights, turn-aways rose to 79.
- On the last day, there were no vacancies in any shelter for individuals or families.
- On another day, 59 homeless people said they hadn’t gone to a shelter the night before because shelters are over-crowded or because they’d often been turned away.
The problem is not merely lack of space. The coalition’s one-day survey found that many homeless people on the streets had not sought shelter the previous night because of over-crowding, unsanitary and/or unsafe conditions or because transportation was a problem.
But numbers don’t capture the human suffering. Watch the interviews the coalition has posted and you’ll see what I mean.
Tomorrow morning, the coalition will be holding a rally to demand immediate action on the crisis. They’re calling on the Mayor to:
- Increase both individual and family shelter space to meet the increased need.
- Track demand to determine how much shelter space will be needed over time.
- Improve and monitor conditions in the shelters.
You can join them at 10:00 in the Freedom Plaza, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.
You can also support the coalition’s recommendations by signing an online petition to the Mayor.