After a fire destroyed her childhood home in southeast D.C., mother of seven Kimberly Ware got help from the Red Cross, which temporarily housed her family at a Courtyard Marriot in northwest D.C. Ware is awaiting to see if she will qualify for shelter assistance, but worries her children will be separated in the process.
By Mana Rabiee
D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty announced a housing assistance program for the homeless, but at least one advocate for those at risk has reservations.
The Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program uses federal stimulus money to help hundreds of households stay out of shelters. The $7.5 million can be used for rent and security deposits.
"We see a lot more people coming in, more anecdotes from our housing counsel agencies, as well as numbers in terms of people being counseled on foreclosure, evictions, or dangers of evictions," says Leila Edmonds, D.C.'s housing director.
Marta Beresin is with the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. While she welcomes the money, Beresin worries it's another step by the Fenty administration to move resources away from shelters towards long-term housing.
"What we're worried about is removing that safety net when they do become homeless. Like this family who became homeless because of a fire," says Beresin.
"She was just telling me to go sign up for the shelters but the shelters are kinda full," says Kimberly Ware, mother of seven. After a house fire, the Red Cross placed the family in hotel rooms while she applied for shelter space, but she's told her children may be separated in the process.
"Where would the kids go? What type of shelter would they go without me," asks Ware.
Over 1,000 families are now in temporary housing in D. C., up 20 percent from the same time last year.