DC Alliance of Youth Advocates will post captivating, moving, and educational testimonies throughout the Performance Oversight and Budget hearing season. To watch the full hearings visit the DC Council website: http://dccouncil.us/videos/archive/.
A young mom of four from Northwest, DC put her own well-being at risk to avoid raising children in a shelter situation. It wasn’t until her son was the target of her husband’s aggression that she reported the abuse and sought help. For thirty days, the DC mom and her children were placed in a hotel room, after which she had to find alternative accommodations. Her only resort was to rely on a friend, who had five children of her own. The overcrowded apartment became too much, once again, she is left finding shelter this winter for her and her family. A situation she never wanted her children to endure. Listen to the mother's testimony below:
The video is pixelated to protect the privacy of the public witness.
While heartbreaking, this story is sadly not unusual. There are a record number of D.C. families seeking shelter this winter, 50% of those families headed by a parent 24 years of age or younger. Marta Bersen from the Washington Legal Clinic identified driving factors in her testimony, as well as solutions she believed the Department of Human Services (DHS) should adopt to halt the crisis in the short term and remedy the problems in the long term. Watch Marta Bersen's testimony here.
Councilmember Jim Graham asked the Director of the DHS, David Berns, how much it is costing the city to react to the homeless crisis. Director Berns stated that it is hard to tell, but cost was clearly a factor when the DHS made the decision to start using cots at recreation centers to house the overflow. According to Director Berns, “Once we switched from making the placements into the hotels and into the rec centers the demand has virtually disappeared.”. Watch David Bern's full response here.
While opening the Parks and Rec Centers may have seemed like a quick fix to Director Berns, both Marta and Jamila Larson from the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project mentioned the fear families have regarding their children sleeping next to strangers. Marta explained, “The law requires the safety, health, and stability of homeless children. Most families have left the rec center after staying one or two nights. This means that while they felt unsafe staying in their cars, at Union Station, with abusers, or in ER rooms, they felt less safe sharing space with strangers in DC rec centers.” Watch Jamilia Larson's testimony here.
The mother echoed this point at the end of her testimony as she broke down from the weight of her dire situation, “I would have endured getting hit every day than to be homeless with four children. Because that’s hard. To be with your four children and not know where you’re going to be next.”.*
*DCAYA would like to clarify that individuals in domestic violence situations are encouraged to seek domestic violence services as some resources are available. Please contact DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence or MPD Domestic Violence Unit if you are experiencing domestic violence.