Rosa Young, 46, and her six children have spent one of the city's coldest winters in a house with almost no heat or hot water, At night the family has huddled under coats and blankets as the wind howled through window frames covered only with plastic.
Some of the windows in the house at 2111 11th St. NW have been broken ever since the family moved there in May, 1975. Even so the three-story, six-bedroom home was at the time a dramatic improvement over the one-room apartment in the 400 blocks of N St. NW, where they lived.
But this winter the family's living conditions worsened. The combination of no heat, missing windows and subfreezing temperatures so chilled the house that in December, Young moved her four younger children from their third-floor bedrooms into a small bedroom on the second floor over the kictchen.
She hoped the heat from the kitchen stove, the family's only source of warmth, would rise through a vent into the chilled bedroom.
Desperate to keep this last source of protection against the icy winter, the family kept an illegal gas connection hidden in their home. A housing inspector discovered it last week and had it shut off.
Throughout most of this ordeal, Young has received only the assistance of two social workers from the Parent and Child Center, a private social service agency in the neighborhood.
Young and her family are typical of an unknown number of poor families in the District who suffer quietly and out of view of public agencies because they do not know how to get help.
Although the family has been receiving a public assistance check from city's department of human resources once a month, a DHR social worker had never visited the Young home - until last week.
Betty Queen, chief of the DHR bureau of family services, said since each of her 70 social workers has caseload of 800 to 900 families, "We cannot visit these families until they request assistance. We don't gets in touch with us.
"We didn't know this case until the lady came in to see us," Queen said.
"I don't think she (Young) is aware of the services or how to go about getting them," said Sylvia Jefferson, a social worker from theParent and Child Center whose calls to several city agencies have resulted in some city government aid.
"Mrs. Young received a letter recently letting her know she had a social worker but the letter did not say what he did," Jefferson said, and "she (Young) did not know."
The family's biggest problem has been trying to keep warm. Young's 26-year-old son nailed the front door shut in November to keep out the wind and many of the windows have rags crammed around the sills.
"We put up plastic to cover the windows because there were no window panes or nothing," Young said. "Sometimes the wind gets cold," she added.
During the the cold spell in December, the family abandoned two of their three third-floor bedrooms. Now the younger boys and girls sleep together, huddled on a hideaway bed and sofa in a bedroom over the kitchen.
During the day family members, blunded in sweaters, spend most of their time in their basement kitchen near the hot plate. Over the weekend Jefferson and Vansessa Brown, a volunteer from Howard University, brought the family an electric heater.
On a recent Tuesday, Young kept her children home from school, as she does the first day of every month. They are needed to protect the house while she goes shopping after receiving her welfare check. The family cannot lock any door in the house from the outside, she said.
"They have to stay here to keep people from taking the little something I have," she explained. "There are so many dope addicts in this neighborhood you never know when somebody will come and take something."
But the check did not arrive in the Tuesday mail. Since she only has enough money to buy food for exactly one month, the delayed check left the family without food. Jefferson gave them $10 for groceries.
Jefferson also arranged for a city housing inspector to visit the Youngs' home. During his inspector to visit the Youngs' home. During the his inspection on Jan. 25 he found 173 violations of the city's housing code and ordered the landlord, M&J Corp., to fix all of them within 60 days.
One of these violations was a hole in the ceiling in the bedroom where most of the children sleep, which allows anyone to look into the bathroom above.
Last week, Young received an eviction notice, the second in two months, from the landlord who charges the rent has not have been paid since October. The notice gave her 10 days to move out.
It is unclear just what the eviction notice means - it is addressed to the previous tenant, Robert Moore, a friend of Young's who told her about the house - but Young feels that it is aimed at her.
Young said she has been paying the rent in her name since she moved in and Moore moved out, although she never signed an agreement or leased with M&J. She denied that the rent was overdue and said she had receipts to prove it.
Although the landlords could not be reached for comment. the M&J Corp. is apparently the new name for Diamond Housing, one of the city's largest holders of D.C. slum property.
The eviction notice is in the name of M&J, trading as Diamond, and calls to the M&J office at 938 K St. NW., are answered in Diamond's name. The landlords have not returned several telephone calls made to them by a reporter.
According to reports filed by M&J with the city's recorder of deeds office for 1976, the company was headed by Max Berg, of 6806 Walter Mill Rd., District Heights, Md., Jerome Golub of 91 New York Ave . Nw, and Harold Evans of 1911 N. Fort Myer Dr., Arlington.
A singular bright spot in Young predicament came recently, when in response to call from the housing inspectors, M&J dispatched workmem to replace all the broken windows in the house, about 15 in all.
In addition a city housing department relocation specialist has interviewed Young and is beginining the search for a new five-bedroom homw for the family.
"I'll be glad to move to a warmer place that's better than this," she said, "but I'd like to stay in this neighborhood so the children can stay in school."
A DHR protective services worker has visited the family to insure the house is warm enough for the children. The family's social worker also paid a visit.
"Now that we have become aware of this (family) this will become an active case with us," Betty Queen said.