The May 21 editorial “Budget madness” chided advocates for the homeless who criticized D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s budget for not addressing a $20.5 million gap left by the loss of one-time federal stimulus funds. The editorial asked rhetorically how the city managed two years ago, before the one-time federal funds. There is an answer to this: The number of people in homeless families in the District increased by 25 percent from 2008 to 2009 and by another 10 percent from 2009 to 2010. Last spring, 292 families were on the District’s wait list for emergency shelter; this spring, there are 571 families on that list. Now for the first time, even “Tier 1” families who are sleeping in cars and stairwells and other public places are being denied shelter.
The editorial asked whether it’s “realistic” to expect local dollars to fill this gap. We who watch homeless children struggle to learn and keep themselves clean and safe ask whether it’s realistic to expect their families to live in stairwells in our nation’s capital while some families in the city enjoy the lowest combined income and property taxes in the region.
Jamila Larson, Washington
The writer is co-founder and executive director of the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project.