By Tyra Wilkes
Special to the AFRO
Displaced occupants of an encampment on K Street N.E. were recently met with an “eviction” notice informing them that as of Jan. 16, “all property blocking this sidewalk is subject to immediate removal and disposal.” The sudden news brought on by the D.C government took many by surprise; leaving them to worry about their belongings and establishing a new safe space, and more importantly, shedding light on the homeless epidemic swarming the District.
Residents of the heavily colonized NoMa community voiced their frustrations about the crowded sidewalks and the community that occupies them on Twitter, one user saying, “I just want to pass on the sidewalk without stepping in front of a car on the street. I have compassion for the homeless but they don’t need to be in this high traffic area.”
According to a recent study conducted by the Interagency Council on Homelessness to determine the best practices for tackling homelessness in D.C., one-third of those surveyed used to own homes in the D.C. Metropolitan area, with 39 percent saying their situation is the result of job loss. In a city that has undergone (and continues to experience) a significant shift in culture and demographic as a result of gentrification, it’s almost impossible for natives to afford homes on the very streets where they grew up.
While residents of the tent city are packing up their things in preparation for their next journey, Kristy Greenwalt, the director of the D.C Interagency Council on Homelessness previously said that their hope is that these measures will urge people to turn to shelter. “We actually have a right to shelter. We have places for people to be, so they don’t need to be camping on public land.”
“It’s actually much better for us to be able engage folks when they’re inside, we can offer services and it’s much safer for them and for the public,” Greenwalt continued.
Despite the District of Columbia Council’s passing of the Homeless Services Reform Amendment Act that changes the process in which individuals and families receive shelter during emergencies, there has still been some reticence in actually using shelter housing. Despite the resistance, the District and homelessness advocates are hoping that displaced residents will shift their trust into the available shelters, are able to attain access to the resources put in place to support this community of people and jumpstart measures to provide safe and secure living quarters for all citizens of the District.