5 Things You Should Know About the Homeless Population in DC
There are over 7,000 homeless individuals in DC, but only 5,000 emergency shelter beds.
While DC General stays open, there are around 5,000 emergency shelter beds. DC has the obligation to provide shelter for all homeless individuals when it’s a Cold Emergency [DC Department of Human Services]—it is required by law.
But a shortage of beds means that in normal conditions, there are at least 2,000 people who are going to be left out in the rain—this lack of capacity especially hurts women, for whom there are only 313 shelter beds in the city.
When you look at the estimated population of homeless individuals in DC [Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness], that means we’re talking about 1,000 people/shower location. That’s impossible 🙁
In addition, when looking at confounding factors such as accessibility and transportation, the available showering areas become even less of an option.
Women and girls suffer exponentially in the homeless community.
Living in these extremely challenging conditions proves to be a uniquely hard experience within the homeless community as a feminine body—or any body other than a non-cisgender male for that matter. Being a feminine body is extremely dangerous and dehumanizing in that you are often targeted for violence and taking care of hygienic needs is a luxury rather than a given.
In addition, domestic violence is the immediate cause of homelessness for many women [National Alliance to End Homelessness]. Studies show that a high percentage of women experiencing homelessness are domestic abuse survivors, even if domestic abuse is not the direct cause of homelessness.
Homelessness is not an anomaly that happens to “those people.” It can be just one miscalculation or unforeseen challenge away.
Many poor families share the same characteristics as homeless families [National Alliance to End Homelessness]: they are headed by single women with low education, young, and have high rates of domestic violence and mental illness. All it takes is one unplanned life event to shake someone’s world.
Homelessness is OUR problem.
Nothing changes until we make it happen. We need to change our lens and see that homeless individuals deserve safe, healthy, and most importantly autonomous lives.
Gillette is a senior studying Public Health and Women’s, Gender, and Sexualities Studies at American University. She is working to improve access to everyday necessities for Thrive DC clients and awareness of the homelessness crisis in the DC area.