Annette Cooper, a 20-year-old mother of two, is moving again.
This year she has changed her address five times. Last year it was six. She is now living with a relative and has only been there a short while, but in a week or so will be moving in with friends.
"I would have moved in sooner, but I really don't know them that well," Cooper said in a soft voice while clenching her hands together.
"I have learned to only live for today. I am not scared about tomorrow. I'll deal with it when it gets here."
The 20-year-old Cooper, who is not living with her husband, is unemployed.
The basic problem, as Cooper sees it, is that she simply can't afford to live under her own roof in the District of Columbia.
She is not alone. District officials and community workers estimate there are thousands like her who must live with friends and relatives to cope with the high housing cost in the District.
"They only come in for help when they are in a crisis situation," according to a community worker for the 14th Street Project Area Committee, Inc. So a large number of families - who changed locations like gypsies - go unrecorded in District records.
LeRoy Hubbard, the special assistant to the director for 14th Street PAC, said. "These families - who are mostly headed by a woman with a number of children - are constantly moving all over town. They move weekly from place to place because they can not find housing they can afford."
Irene Tucker, 35, and her five children are another example of a family on the move. On May 2, workmen came to her home in the 2600 block of 12th St. NE and began stripping the roof to make repairs the owner had requested. The workmen stripped the roof and did not cover it, according to Tucker.
On May 16 it rained. Tucker said water came into the house "like black soot causing one helluva mess." She said the water came through light sockets and even caused a small fire in her daughter's bedroom.
They had to move. First they went to her former husband's efficiency apartment for about a week. That did not work out because "there were too many people in a small apartment and we were afraid a neighbor would complain to the landlord." Tucker said she and her five children - ages 10, 11, 13, 14 and 16 - moved into a friend's home for four weeks. Her friend decided to take a two-week vacation in North Carolina and told Tucker and her family they would have to leave.
Tucker and her five children ran out of friends and relatives to stay with. Those relatives in town, according to Tucker, "had families of their own or they were in the same type of situation that I was."
With no place to turn, she went to the House of Imagene.
According to Rev. Sidney Smith, the House of Imagene - designed for battered women - previously has not accepted women with children. Smith said he made an exception for the Tucker family "because they had no place to go."
Community workers at the 14th Street PAC say they had 41 displaced families at the beginning of the year who could find no where to go. They tell a story about a family that recently came to their attention and then disappeared.
They say the family included two sisters and their nine children. The two sisters were evicted from their two-bedroom apartment and had nowhere to go.
"The two sisters came to us and asked for help," said Elizabeth Jones, a community worker for the 14th Street project. Jones said they were referred to the Department of Human Resources, which told them they would have to place their children in foster homes. "The two mothers just disappeared," according to Jones, who said the mothers chose to change addresses and remain on the move.
"It is just not our responsibility to deal with people who are moving. They are not in an emergency situation. If they are they must come to us. We can not go out and give services," said Nancy Berliner, a spokeswoman for DHR.
The District has two emergency family shelters, but both are filled, according to employes. Joseph Eason, supervisor of the shelter at 2850 Hartford St. SE - which has 10 apartments - said the shelters are supposed to provide housing for up to five days for families evicted or burned out. But the current stay is a good deal longer, according to Eason, who said: "Now the staying time varies because of the difficulty in finding housing."
According to Eason, some people have remained in the shelter for nearly two months without finding another place to stay.
Copper, who has not yet had to rely on an emergency shelter for help, said she hopes to find an apartment and finally settle down soon. "All of this moving has go to end soon . . . I'm getting ulcers," she said.