By Énoa Gibson
Washington, D.C.—Local organizations around the world are helping to fight the widespread epidemic of homelessness.
Based on national reports,it’s estimated that no less than 150 million people, or about 2 percent of the world’s population, are homeless.
There are local organizations in different cities around the world that are taking unique initiatives to solve this issue. Friendship Place and Charlie’s Place are both organizations in Washington D.C. working to end homelessness in Ward 8. The organizations work every day to eradicate the epidemic by working with the homeless to set up plans to better their lives.
According to Statista, “in 2019, Washington, D.C. had the highest estimated rate of homelessness in the United States, with 94 homeless individuals per 10,000 of the population.”
Census Reporters state that 34.2 percent of the population in Ward 8 is below the poverty line, creating a sense of urgency amongst organizations that strive to help homeless communities. According to Yale Global, based on national reports, it’s estimated that no less than 150 million people, or about 2 percent of the world’s population, are homeless.
“Homelessness affects the area a great deal,” said Reggie Cox, the executive director of Charlie’s Place, an organization that provides meals, clothing, entertainment, grooming, and doctors appointments for the homeless in Ward 8.
“Not all people want to live in homes,” said Cox. “Some people get complacent and think they can survive being homeless. They believe they have less stress with not having to worry about paying bills and taxes or having the responsibilities they would normally have.”
“Mental health, poor lifestyle choices, and substance abuse issues are a large part of the homelessness problem. In D.C., the popularity of the drug K2 is proving to be a substance that creates dependency. These drug users are unable to manage their affairs and to do what they are supposed to do,” said Reggie Cox, who, six years ago, walked into the homeless center seeking a hot meal and is now the executive director.
Marie Graves, who raises funding for Charlie’s Place, believes that D.C. residents are much more tolerant and feel a certain amount of guilt for the homeless community in the D.C. area. She sees the community become more accepting of the tents set up around the parks and street corners, noticing how people are becoming less eager to get them moved out.
“When I came to Charlie’s Place, I think I came with this idea in the back of my mind that I was saving people, but in reality, I think they saved me. I really learned so much about the human spirit and how incredibly resilient it is.” said Graves, director of development and external relations.
Amongst many organizations helping to prevent homelessness, Friendship Place, a regional homelessness services provider located in Ward 8, works to end displacement and rebuild lives. “Whether we can count the exact number or not, because of the people on the brink or doubled up with relatives creating many people we don’t see, homelessness impacts a lot of people in the D.C. area,” said President and CEO of Friendship Place, Jean-Michel Giraud.
According to the Homelessness World Cup Foundation, census data is typically collected based on households. Although much of the census data counts those receiving government aid and living in shelters, it’s difficult for them to calculate the “hidden homeless,” which includes squatters, couch surfers, those residing in slums, and those who are always moving around.
“I am passionate about our work because we are working to end homelessness,” said Giraud, who provides the vision for Friendship Place.
Giraud believes that the problem of homelessness can be solved by a combination of factors. “Homelessness is linked to joblessness, so for me, housing and employment have to work together to end homelessness in the D.C. metro area and everywhere, and at Friendship Place we are building systems and programs in our organization that are strong enough to catch people on time so we are ending chronic homelessness.”
Giraud believes that in any system you are going to have some people who fall through the cracks but what’s important is “how effective and strong the systems are, to try and catch everybody on time so we can end homelessness as quickly as possible and make it non-recurring.”
Marie Graves, of Charlie’s Place, also said that residents of D.C. should also work to end homelessness as the saying ‘you are a paycheck away from being homeless’ is true. “The more I know about our guests, the more I know that they had incredible careers, wisdom and I realized there’s no real difference between them and me except for the choices they made.”
Cox said that society can change homelessness if they wanted to.
“There’s no reason why anyone who wants housing shouldn’t have it. There absolutely should never be a reason why people are homeless.