(Courtesy of Homeless Children’s Playtime Project/Relisha Rudd.)

Did anyone say her name? Did anyone say, “This is for Relisha.”

No, but her fate had to be on everyone’s mind Wednesday as District leaders passed a budget that included $146 million to help feed and house the homeless.

Relisha Rudd was 8 when she disappeared more than a year ago in the company of a janitor at the D.C. homeless shelter where she was living with her mother and three younger brothers. The janitor allegedly killed his wife and then himself. Relisha has never been found, but she is presumed dead — a story that saddened and shamed a city awash in affluence.

In debates and in speeches during the election cycle, candidates did not invoke her name. And once the dust cleared and Muriel E. Bowser (D) took her seat as mayor, Relisha didn’t seem to haunt anyone anymore.

Stadiums were discussed, police cameras debated, newer and newer condos went up. And Relisha? Zip.

But maybe, just maybe, it was in her unspoken name that the city’s focus took a major shift this week when the District approved a $13 billion budget that invests30 percent more to help the homeless and directs an additional $178 million to affordable-housing programs.

There are few things more devastating to a family than homelessness. And we have hundreds of children living without homes every day in the nation’s capital.

With the sweep of a pen, city leaders at long last declared war on this crisis, including$40 million to create a network of smaller family shelters that will push the harrowing D.C. General shelter into history’s dustbin.

“This represents the most significant investment in affordable housing and efforts to end homelessness that the city has ever seen,” said Ericka Taylor, executive director of the Fair Budget Coalition in the District, which has been calling for homeless aid and extending Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits for years now.

The budget comes after Bowser appointed an army of folks who used to sit on the other side of the political dais, former advocates who have spent years urging leaders to address the city’s soaring number of homeless families.

Laura Zeilinger, who once worked for the District and was most recently executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, is now in charge of the District’s Department of Human Services. This is the “Laura Z” who is always out on the streets for annual counts of homeless people, who knows the guys on certain benches by their names and their nicknames.

Jenny Reed, who for years has been issuing astute and detailed reports on poverty and housing in Washington for the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, brings her perspective as D.C. deputy budget director.

And Polly Donaldson, who worked for a decade at the head of the Transitional Housing Corporation, directs the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development.

At a gala for the corporation last week, Donaldson said this is “a very special time in the District,” with a new focus on true housing reform, and what she described as “convergence of political will.”

Or maybe it’s an ode to Relisha.

Her life was defined not only by a child predator but also by a dysfunctional mother who was damaged by years in the foster-care system. It’s a story about a malfunctioning school-truancy system. But most of all, it’s a story about homelessness.

And it will be Relisha’s legacy if the city truly does save hundreds of children out there just like her.

Twitter: @petulad

To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/dvorak.

Did anyone say her name? Did anyone say, “This is for Relisha.”

No, but her fate had to be on everyone’s mind Wednesday as District leaders passed a budget that included $146 million to help feed and house the homeless.

Relisha Rudd was 8 when she disappeared more than a year ago in the company of a janitor at the D.C. homeless shelter where she was living with her mother and three younger brothers. The janitor allegedly killed his wife and then himself. Relisha has never been found, but she is presumed dead — a story that saddened and shamed a city awash in affluence.

In debates and in speeches during the election cycle, candidates did not invoke her name. And once the dust cleared and Muriel E. Bowser (D) took her place as mayor, Relisha didn’t seem to haunt anyone anymore.

Stadiums were discussed, police cameras debated, newer and newer condos went up. And Relisha? Zip.

But maybe, just maybe, it was in her unspoken name that the city’s focus took a major shift this week when the District approved a $13 billion budget that invests
30 percent more to help the homeless and directs an additional $178 million to affordable-housing programs.

There are few things more devastating to a family than homelessness. And we have hundreds of children living without homes every day in the nation’s capital.

With the sweep of a pen, city leaders at long last declared war on this crisis, including
$40 million to create a network of smaller family shelters that will push the harrowing D.C. General shelter into history’s dustbin.

“This represents the most significant investment in affordable housing and efforts to end homelessness that the city has ever seen,” said Ericka Taylor, executive director of the Fair Budget Coalition in the District, which has been calling for homeless aid and extending Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits for years now.

The budget comes after Bowser appointed an army of folks who used to sit on the other side of the political dais, former advocates who have spent years urging leaders to address the city’s soaring number of homeless families.

Laura Zeilinger, who once worked for the District and was most recently executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, is now in charge of the District’s Department of Human Services. This is the “Laura Z” who is always out on the streets for annual counts of homeless people, who knows the guys on certain benches by their names and their nicknames.

Jenny Reed, who for years has been issuing astute and detailed reports on poverty and housing in Washington for the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, brings her perspective as D.C. deputy budget director.

And Polly Donaldson, who worked for a decade at the head of the Transitional Housing Corporation, directs the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development.

At a gala for the corporation last week, Donaldson said this is “a very special time in the District,” with a new focus on true housing reform, and what she described as “convergence of political will.”

Or maybe it’s an ode to Relisha.

Her life was defined not only by a child predator but by a dysfunctional mother who was damaged by years in the foster-care system. It’s a story about a malfunctioning school-truancy system. But most of all, it’s a story about homelessness.

And it will be Relisha’s legacy if the city truly does save hundreds of children out there just like her.

Twitter: @petulad

To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/dvorak.