Photo of Street Sense artist and vendor Sheila White wearing her UDC gear.
Street Sense artist and vendor Sheila White has gone back to school at UDC. Photo by Ken Martin via Flickr.

Being homeless for seven years was a sad time in my life. Living on the street for three years and not knowing where to find a safe place to sleep, eat, or even shower was challenging. Stores would not let  me use the restroom without purchasing something first.. Eating a well-balanced meal was hard to come by. Martha’s Table would bring food to us once a day, but by nightfall I was hungry again. There were places you might be able to take a shower, but those places could not meet the demand. Food lines and shower lines were very long. I might have to wait a week or so for my name to come up to take a shower. 

This made me go into the shelter, where I lived for the next four years. Living in the shelter also had its challenges. We had to leave at 7 a.m. and return at 4 p.m. If I did not return, I lost my bed. I had to carry my  belongings   all the time. It was difficult to sleep. The food was awful. We ate the same things day after day. I finally received my housing voucher. What a relief! I now can study in a quiet place, feed  myself healthy meals, and just relax. But, many more people live  on the streets or in shelters. Most people who are homeless suffer from addiction and depression. Many also  have eviction notices on their records; others are plagued with felony charges, which prevent them from being housed. The laws need to change so people can obtain housing. Landlords are not trying to give second chances to people with these kinds of problems. I was given a chance because my record was clean. But what about people who lost their homes due to fire, flood or just lost their jobs?

Homelessness will probably grow when pandemic-related eviction prohibitions expire. Based on the Point-in-Time count this January, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments estimates there are 8,300 homelessness people in the D.C. metropolitan area on “any given night.”