One of the foundations to the political platform which has long defined the Bowser administration remains providing citizens with the skills, tools and knowledge needed to successfully embark upon and master the road to the middle class.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has employed ingenuity and creativity supplied by members of her own team as well as from leaders within the local business and education communities to help hundreds of citizens break the shackles of poverty. Many Washingtonians have benefited from the mayor’s commitment to securing pathways leading to greener pastures, greater financial opportunities and more equitable educational curriculum — answering their prayers in the achievement of their dreams.
However, with thousands of families and individuals impacted by reduced work hours, layoffs and record unemployment due to COVID-19, the focus by Bowser, and other city and state leaders, has understandably been protecting citizens from being evicted. In addition, Bowser has been true to her word, reducing the number of homeless families in the District by nearly 45 percent since 2016, according to a 2019 count required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
So, why aren’t we celebrating?
As a guest commentary for The Washington Post by Michelle Steer recently suggests, because of HUD’s “narrow and unrealistic definition of a homeless family,” a huge percentage of single-mother-led families, representing more than 80 percent of homeless families, are not being counted.
As Steer points out, HUD does not factor in those families who are sleeping on the couches, floors or in the garages of friends while they seek a home of their own. Neither does HUD include those in their definition of homeless who are paying for motel rooms with their own funds. As a nonsensical nuance, HUD does consider a family homeless if they’re paying for a motel room with a government-issued voucher.
We believe that the writer has shed light on an issue that continues to be hidden from view and ignored. Not only have many families failed to be counted among the homeless but children — the most vulnerable — have also failed to be counted and recognized.
Homeless children in the District, now hovering over 8,000 at the most recent count for the 2017-2018 school year, have become invisible and therefore unable to secure shelter or social services sorely needed for a modicum of acceptable education, nutrition and physical and emotional health and well-being.
It’s time we stop using rubrics and definitions for the Black community which we know fail to include all of our members — men, women and children. Further, if the government remains unwilling to be more realistic in tackling the issue of homelessness among people of color, we must provide our own means of getting them off of the streets and out of shelters or one-star motels and into a place in which children can feel safe — in places that families can call “home.”
It’s great to share a few coats or toys and turkey for those in need during the holidays.
But the greatest gift — one which would change lives forever — would be eradicating the scourge of homelessness that plagues our community.