I was disappointed by the April 17 front-page article “Housing vouchers roil a pricey D.C. building.” The article’s characterization of an increase in tenants with housing vouchers at a Northwest D.C. apartment building as a “high-stakes social experiment” trivialized the struggle of low-income residents to find affordable housing in the city. Further, by focusing on a handful of incidents involving individuals with mental-health needs, the story painted a portrait of voucher holders as “problem” tenants. That risks compounding the discrimination that voucher holders already face in searching for suitable housing.
The District’s rapid gentrification has left the city’s most vulnerable residents with ever-diminishing housing options. Too often, my clients — low-income, elderly and predominantly African American — are told by prospective landlords: “We don’t accept vouchers.” Voucher holders with disabilities report being told: “We are not an assisted-living facility.” While illegal under the D.C. Human Rights Act, this discrimination is common.
I hope The Post will highlight the challenges faced by voucher holders who must contend with discrimination and a shrinking stock of affordable housing in a city that seems increasingly unwelcoming to all but the privileged.
Margaret Emery, Washington
The writer is a staff attorney for Legal Counsel
for the Elderly.
The April 17 front-page article on D.C. housing vouchers spotlighted extreme examples of challenges in housing policy addressing homelessness but missed the point. “Housing first” saves lives and ends homelessness.
Housing first was a key pillar for the three states and 66 communities nationwide that ended veteran homelessness. In the District, housing first has helped reduce veteran and long-term homelessness, respectively, by 39 percent and 10 percent since 2013, giving thousands of people a place to call home for the first time in years. Individuals who receive housing under this model are more likely to stay housed. At Miriam’s Kitchen, 97 percent of residents remain in housing after one year. With that stability, they are better able to manage health challenges, reconnect with family, hold a job and more.
Rather than get distracted by outliers, we should double down on what works: housing first, permanent supportive housing and street outreach. By investing an additional $20.76 million on top of the mayor’s budget, council members and the wider community can show that the District believes everyone — especially black and brown neighbors who are disproportionately affected by the homelessness crisis — should have a safe place to call home. This investment would take the District a step closer to realizing its goal of ending long-term homelessness for everyone in our nation’s capital.
Kierstin Quinsland, Washington
The writer is director of permanent supportive housing at Miriam’s Kitchen.