Matailong Du

On May 7, the Way Home campaign held an advocacy day to highlight its priorities for the budget season. The campaign aims to end chronic homelessness in the District of Columbia through cost-effective housing initiatives.

This year, the group is asking that the city council spend $1.8 million on the Department of Human Services permanent supportive housing program to house 115 individuals, $2.3 million on targeted affordable housing to house 188 individuals, $1 million on rapid re-housing to house 100 individuals, and $100,000 to provide support staff for the director of the interagency council to implement the plan to end homelessness. The campaign points out that it is more cost effective to house someone rather than have that person wander the streets of the District in a state of destitution.

On the advocacy day, Way Home advocates divided into smaller groups, each tasked with visiting a council office to discuss these priorities.

“I was homeless for one year. There are people that are on the streets that have been there for years,” said advocate Carol Doster.

Parastou Hatami, Project Manager and Human Rights Counsel for the D.C. Right to Housing Initiative, stressed the belief that housing is a human right. “Housing is one of those things that we need to live a dignified existence,” she said.

“[Being homeless] really works on your confidence. No one ever in a thousand years would think that I would ever be displaced and homeless. We’ve got to take it seriously,” said Juanita Thomas, a Ward 1 resident.

“My job is to help people manage their health,” said Kiefer Paterson, case manager with HIPS, a local health center for sex workers and drug users. “All of my clients are homeless. They have to carry the burden of being HIV positive.”

David Grosso, at-large member of the DC Council, said he supports the group’s efforts.

“I wish you could come every month,” he said. “It’s a little disheartening that the mayor has come up short. I think this is a good story, but a tough story,” he said. “We have a lot of children that are homeless and that is bizarre. I’m glad the mayor did shift money to these priorities, but she didn’t do enough.”