If you live in Washington, DC, you know we’ve had a cold winter. Over 4,000 men, women and children in DC have sought shelter in the last few months. Homeless singles fight for space at shelters or in warm doorways. Before families head to emergency shelter, they sleep in their cars until the weather gets too cold. Others bounce from one friend’s couch to another’s until they wear down their friends’ hospitality. Some parents even drop off their children at friends’ homes for the night, while they themselves sleep on park benches – prioritizing their children’s safety over their own.
Our assessment specialist, Jackie Charneco, spends most of her days at a crowded DC motel that functions as an emergency shelter for families. Every day she hears firsthand as families describe the challenges they have faced trying to stay safe and warm. “By the time they arrive at a shelter, families have really exhausted their options,” Jackie says. “They need a friend, they need hope."
Our assessment specialists interview families to gauge the amount of support they need to end their homelessness. If their situation is extreme, permanent supportive housing may be offered. If they are mostly stable, they may be offered one-time assistance. But the majority of families need Rapid Re-Housing – short-term rental assistance with housing search, case management and employment search assistance – a program we have found to keep families from returning to shelter almost 90% of the time.
This winter the number of families seeking shelter has exploded. The city quickly ran out of space for families at DC General Shelter and the motels they’ve utilized for the last few years. The very costly solution was to rent an additional 100 motel rooms to house the incoming families, a short-term fix that is not ideal for the city or the families.
Two weeks ago, Mayor Bowser announced a plan to move families out of shelter quickly, and we are pleased to be partnering with the city on this endeavor. In the next few months, we will grow to support 60 more families through the city’s Rapid Re-Housing program. That means 60 new families will sign leases and move into their own apartments, often for the first time. Thanks to you, Community of Hope has become a major provider helping families get quickly housed – often a first step toward stability.
After months or even years of not having their own home, the 60 new families we support will need a lot of household items to set up home again. Can you help these families by collecting items on our Welcome Kit list? Invite your workplace, church, family and friends to join you. These essential housewares help them make a stable home. With your help, they can focus on what matters most: their health, their employment and the well-being of their children.
There is another meaningful way to support our new families' transition out of homelessness: join our talented, compassionate team! We are hiring some new positions as our housing programs grow. View our available human services positions here.