Martha's Table is a non-profit organization which does some truly wonderful work in our community and which I support throughout the year. Yesterday they were one of the sponsors of a Pep Rally for Peace in the Streets held as part of the 5th annual Feed the Homeless Community Awareness Day. Another sponsor was Sweet Mango Cafe – one of the manservant's favourite hangouts – which yesterday supplied a free meal to those in need who turned up during the afternoon.
We missed the opening speakers but we did hear the co-owner of Sweet Mango Cafe speak on some of the programs available to assist the homeless:
There are more than 2,100 homeless youths in DC and yesterday we watched as some of these youths performed songs they'd written. Their words were very powerful – the violence they face on the streets and the helplessness that they feel at controlling their destiny. Some sang of the family dysfunction that led to them living in shelters; the breakdown and loss of their family unit.
There are about 17,800 homeless in Washington DC. 47% are classed as "chronically homeless" meaning they've been without a residential address for more than one year.
DC has the highest proportion of people in the US with the lowest income levels. A worker earning minimum wage must work approximately 140 hours per week to be able to afford a 2-bedroom unit at this area's Fair Market rent (figures from National Low Income Housing Coalition). 20.3% of the single homeless are employed as are 26.5% of homeless adults in a family.
22.7% of all DC children under 18 live at, or below the poverty line.
There are approximately 2,300 emergency shelter beds for single adults and 100 emergency shelter units for families in DC. The wait for emergency family shelter is around 6 months!!
Homelessness is around all of us in whatever state or country we live in – and it is growing each day. Most of us have things in our cupboards or wardrobes we are never going to use – things that we hang on to for reasons such as "just in case". Items that organizations like Martha's Table, Salvation Army, Dress for Success etc, and Food Banks really need. Next time you open a cupboard see if you can spy something that really does not need to be there…………
* figures from The Community Partnership for Prevention of Homelessness.