Some Sunday mornings, I swing by Franklin Park, which takes up an entire block off of 13th St and K St NW. Various churches and volunteer groups deliver food, clothes and hygiene items throughout the day to the poor and homeless who gather there. I personally don’t go there for the handouts anymore, although anyone who knows me knows I won’t turn down a free cup of coffee. I go there to check up on old friends and associates who still show up there every Sunday. 

I arrived there a couple weeks ago and noticed how some things have changed. The first thing I noticed was how many more people were in the park to be fed. That’s a sure sign that the homeless population in the District is rising, not falling. Whether this is due to the economy being worse than we think, or more people are getting displaced by gentrification, I truly don’t know.

Another thing I noticed was how many more of the recipients of the churches’ generosity were children. A few years back, you may have seen a formerly homeless person who got off the streets come back to check up on people and socialize, bringing their kids along for a day in the park. But otherwise there weren’t many children. During my recent visit, I managed to count eight kids with just a quick turn of my head. This would seem to indicate that there are just that many poor and/or homeless families that rely on aid from these organizations.

There was one more thing that stood out to me during my visit to the park. For the first time ever, I didn’t know a single person there, and I don’t think anyone there knew me. I pray that this means my friends are off the street and safe. What it really means is that, despite many individuals getting off the streets in the last few years thanks to some really good housing programs, the vicious cycles of poverty and homelessness are claiming more and more victims every day.

In conclusion, it only takes a quick look around one of this city’s parks to see that the homeless epidemic in the District is getting worse as opposed to better.