By Sara Soteras and Acosta |
Washington (EFE).- Janelle’s days in a shelter for the homeless in Washington have an expiration date. In April, her time under a roof is up if she doesn’t receive the call that everyone in her situation expects: the one that grants her permanent housing.
The homeless are in an extreme scenario in the capital of the United States, with the dismantlement of numerous camps and long waiting lists to access permanent housing, to which is now added the closure of the emergency program launched by the city to help the most vulnerable during the pandemic.
Janelle, a 38-year-old woman half of whom has been wandering the streets of this city, has exhausted all avenues to find housing, and the end of the program further limits her opportunities, because she won’t be able to stay in one of the hotels either. that were available up to now.
“I was trying this year to get into the PEP-V (short for the Pandemic Emergency Program for Medically Vulnerable Persons) to be able to go to a hotel, but I won’t be able to anymore, so I just have to wait until April to see if I’m back on the street” , he explains to EFE.
The department of social services of the District of Columbia, the one of this city, announced in January that it will end the program gradually during the year, so that it will not give roof to new applicants after having housed more than 2,200 people.
Two blocks from the shelter where Janelle resides is McPherson Square Park, where up to now more than fifty people have lived in tents.
Until this week, because last Wednesday a National Park Service cleanup brigade dismantled it.
The operation began early in the morning with three deafening announcements on the loudspeaker of the Police, who threatened to arrest those who did not leave this camp, the largest in the city and located just a few blocks from the White House.
Many of the evicted collected their things and, as they told EFE, they would try to settle in another nearby plot.
Mary Jo, 55, had been in this camp for barely a week and a half, when she left a shelter for not taking it anymore, she told EFE, the “verbal abuse” of the staff for being a black woman. She now, she regretted, she also had to leave McPherson despite having found a family in her companions.
Eric Sheptock also complained about favored treatment and abuse in shelters, having gone through three of them, although he has had more luck than others. After 12 years of waiting, he finally received the call that opened the doors to permanent housing.
Sheptock attended the dismantling of the McPherson camp to support the small community that had sprung up there and to which his friend, Daniel, also belongs.
Together with another of his companions, Daniel wanted to resist until the end of the eviction. Both were detained by the Police for refusing to leave the premises.
Multiple organizations have offered volunteers to the Administration due to the lack of social workers to care for the homeless, Antonia Fasanelli, executive director of the National Homelessness Law Center, told EFE.
He assures that the city government “has enough housing to accommodate everyone, but it takes between six and nine months to refer them to permanent housing.”
On the verge of tears, Fasanelli criticized the “traumatic” way in which Washington evacuates the encampments, when in other cities like Baltimore social workers are given time to connect people with available housing.
Despite the dismantling of the camp last Wednesday, there are still some homeless people in McPherson who sit on the sidewalk of the square without trespassing the fence that will close it to the public until the summer. The organizations bring them clothes and food, which are now distributed among those who shared life in this square.