Closing the Gap on Homelessness in the Nation’s Capital
According to a recent study published in the USA Today, as the nation’s capital, D.C. is home to many high paying legal, government and other professional jobs. The D.C. area is one of just eight where over 50 percent of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree. As of March 2018, the unemployment rate was 3.6 percent.
Yet, D.C. has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country. According to a 2016 report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, D.C. ranked number one out of 32 major cities with the highest rate of homelessness.
Most of us can’t imagine losing everything. Most of us don’t think about where our next meal is coming from or wonder what roof will hold us for the night. The truth is that most of us will never have to know. But for nearly 7000 DC residents, these are real problems with dire implications.
There are limitless circumstances surrounding how a person may become homeless whether it’s a layoff, substance addiction, mental health, or debt, and for many the climb up to stability may be harder than the fall. Navigating the system, financial restrictions or even something as simple as getting an ID, can make the process seem impossible.
The cyclical nature of the problems associated with homelessness—, poverty and a lack of essential resources—often prevents people from fully recovering their lives. While shelters and food kitchens help support those on the streets day to day, they are solutions that can’t single-handedly address the systemic issues of poverty. And even if someone manages to pick themselves up, immersion and reintegration don’t come easy without the proper tools. That’s where United Way of the National Capital Area is changing the game.
“Todd here has been, like a guardian angel.”
– Andre Robinson 2018 Project Homeless Connect Participant
United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in our community. Every year, United Way NCA hosts Project Homeless Connect, a one-stop hub for those experiencing homelessness to meet with career advisers, personal services, and a series of industry specialists and providers aimed at helping participants reset their lives. With access to mentors and volunteers, our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness are guided from service to service with one objective in mind—to provide those in need with the critical services that might otherwise take months to secure. In its 4th year, Project Homeless Connect has helped rebuild the lives of over 400 people – and over 1500 to date.
Along with connecting participants to essential services, volunteers and participants have a unique opportunity to impact each other’s lives.
Overjoyed by the friendship participant Andre Robinson had across the day he exclaimed, “Todd here has been, like a guardian angel.”
“This place has really just allowed me to connect with some places that I been trying to get to and just been too busy to get to,” Robinson said of the employment and hair-cutting services offered by Project Homeless Connect.
“The fact that I was able to help Andre out here today,” Robinson’s guide Todd Lundberg expressed, “it really touched me, it was a really great experience.”
For many participants, PHC is the beginning of the process to stability from what may otherwise seem like a path too difficult to navigate. “I’ve been paying market rent all my life,” Rhonda, a mother of three, confides. Unable to break from the cycle of poverty, Rhonda has weaved in out of homelessness her entire life. For her and many others, the opportunities presented at PHC are a once in a year shot at breaking free. However, like many others living in poverty, Rhonda fears for the future of those she cares about. “Stopping the fire is my way of helping out,” she expands on keeping the youth of her community from falling down the same path. “I was taught coming up I look out for [them],” she states, “[I] need some [one] to look out for me now.”
Watch the video to experience this year’s PHC.
Learn more about volunteer opportunities.