It’s budget season in DC, and the nonprofit/social sector community has been rallying lately around several different budget priorities for FY2014. We’ve written before about the One City Fund and the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region circulated a petition to fully fund adult literacy programs. Today, another issue caught our eye on the DC Fair Budget Coalition’s blog about tackling homelessness in the District. Many Catalogue nonprofits currently work with individuals and families experiencing homelessness in DC (as well as Maryland and Virginia), and we’ve shared posts before from organizations like Washington Legal Counsel for the Homeless and FACETS. In this article, Danielle Rothman from the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project shares her experience working at DC General and urges the DC City Council to fully fund the Housing First and Local Rent Supplement Programs tenant-based voucher programs in 2014.
A key theme in this piece is the fact that falling on hard times and into homelessness can happen to anyone. The profile of a struggling single mother who kept fighting for herself and her daughter, only to face an onslaught of new challenges, inspires compassion even for those most removed from poverty in the Greater Washington area:
Nicole is a 30-year-old woman with a knock-out smile. She exudes warmth and joy, and when she greets you with one of her signature hugs, you can’t help but feel a little happier. Nicole’s 7-year-old daughter, Taylor, is a bubbly little girl, with a flair for drama and a mischievous sparkle in her eye. If you saw Nicole and Taylor walking down the street, you might notice their close relationship, or maybe the energy they radiate. Perhaps you wouldn’t notice them at all, because they seem so much like any other mother-daughter pair. You would probably never guess that Nicole and Taylor are residents of the DC General Emergency Family Shelter, DC’s largest shelter for homeless families. You would certainly not be able to imagine the countless ordeals that they have been through…
Nicole’s ordeals included drug-addicted and absent parents, sexual assault, raising a daughter alone, and the financial pressures of students loans and family illness, and then her daughter’s own experience with sexual abuse. Each one of those challenges is more than most of us probably experience in a decade. And, Rothman notes, Nicole is not alone:
In my two years of working at DC General with the Playtime project, I have met a college educated mother of two who lost everything when she escaped domestic violence, a family where both parents lost jobs they’d had for years, a father who had to leave his job after his wife left because he could not find evening day care for his two little girls, and even a mother who used to volunteer at a homeless shelter. Much like Nicole, she never thought she would end up living in a shelter herself. These stories are common, and they are powerful reminders that homelessness can happen to anyone. We as a community must pull together to support these families and help them find solid ground again.
The DC City Council has the opportunity to help address the challenges faced by Nicole, and others staying at DC General and homeless shelters around town, by funding the programs mentioned above. However, the responsibility to help and make a difference goes beyond our local government, and lies with each member of the Greater Washington community. Consider getting involved with a Catalogue nonprofit that works with those experiencing hunger or homeless as a donor, volunteer, or advocate – more information online here.