You may have seen the article in The Washington Post this week by Petula Dvorak.
I am sure that you have been hearing the many media reports about the situation at DC General. The problem is a very real and pressing one—and yet, the story told publicly often misses much of the overall complexity of the issue. I have been involved in DC’s policy and planning work as a local leader/advocate and also as a member of the DC Interagency Council on Homelessness and have had a “close-up” perspective.
From that perspective, I would like to emphasize the following:
- For 2 years now, we have seen a dramatic spike in family homelessness in DC (in most cases, “families” are “women with children”); many more families than anticipated came to request shelter in the winter months. Acting on an emergency basis to this crisis, the District housed hundreds of people at DC General and also put families in hotels—an unideal, inefficient solution and one to which there seemed no alternatives given the few resources in the hands of those charged with addressing it
- Over the past 5 years we HAVE made some progress in addressing individual (often ‘chronic’) homelessness in DC—and programs such as N Street Village’s Erna’s House are examples of what we have accomplished in working together between government funders, private developers, and service providers
- A situation like DC General however won’t be fixed by simply addressing that crisis, but rather by understanding and beginning to remediate the underlying problems which are causing the crisis…such as:
–A shrinking and dramatically inadequate amount of affordable (and decent) housing in DC
–Vast and unyielding socio-economic disparities in education, health, and access to vocational opportunities
We have a lot of work to do in all of these areas and it will take every community, every board/group/mission/organization, AND our government partners to make progress and to address deeply entrenched poverty and its related problems, such as those exemplified by DC General. I always encourage us to remember and share the idea that “we are more alike than we are different.” A few small turns of fate of circumstance could render us in one another’s position—and whether we are motivated by our faith or a sense of justice or compassion—we should fulfill a social compact that ensures equity, dignity and opportunity for everyone.
With thanks to Petula and The Washington Post for printing this article, we DO hold N Street Village as an example of what can be possible. AND it is the dedication and generosity of all of you—our Board, our volunteers, our neighborhood, our contributors and others—who have created this community of compassion and potential.
May we all stay ‘on fire’ for the mission of N Street Village and for the larger objectives of social equity and opportunity that we represent.
With gratitude for all of you, who are so committed and engaged.
N Street Village
P.S. We did not know that Petula was going to write about N Street Village in her article, it was a nice Tuesday morning surprise.
More reading on the topic:
- D.C. General Is Awful. Closing It Could Be Worse. (Washington City Paper, July 14, 2014)
- Housing Security in the Washington Region, Executive Summary (The Community Foundation and its partners, July 2014)