By John Kelly, columnist
The Washington Post
January 6, 2016
Two years ago, what I didn’t know about being homeless in the Washington area could have filled a book. Now, what I do know has filled two columns a week.
Today’s is the last one. We’re approaching the end of The Washington Post Helping Hand fundraising campaign within sight of our $250,000 goal. You can find information on how to donate below, but first I want to reflect on what I’ve learned.
I’ve learned that despite this area being one of the nation’s wealthiest, thousands of families find themselves without a home. A divorce, a medical emergency, a lost job, even a broken-down car can be enough to tip a family into homelessness.
Last winter, an annual survey found close to 12,000 people without shelter in the Washington region. The best current estimate is that almost 1,000 people younger than 24 in the District are homeless or marginally housed (which means they resort to couch surfing every night).
I’ve also learned that many local nonprofit groups are working creatively to help the homeless, especially homeless families. They take an approach known as “housing first,” which posits that it’s hard for people to address crippling issues — unemployment, addiction — if they don’t have a roof over their heads.
I’ve learned that, unsurprisingly, tackling homelessness and related problems isn’t easy. Where can a person find an affordable apartment in a city where housing prices are going through the roof? How do you help a guy pass his GED exam when he didn’t get past the 10th grade? How do you help a person with poor English skills find a job? How do you repair the credit of a woman whose ex-husband has taken out multiple credit cards in her name?
All three of our Helping Hand partners go after these problems with intense, personal attention. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to helping people get on their feet. That’s what’s been most impressive about our three groups, Community of Hope, Homestretch and Sasha Bruce Youthwork: They know their clients, walking with them every step of the way.
Story continued in The Washington Post.