Observations on the Homelessness of Washington, D.C.

Jack Rose, Cav-Culture Editor

Photo courtesy of Jack Rose

Canvas and polyester line the outskirts of a hotel. Someone’s worldly possessions lay strewn over the sidewalk. A battalion of sleeping soldiers lie at the feet of their commander and his horse. A single tent rests in an open field. This sounds like a warzone. This sounds like Hell on Earth, but it’s not. It’s our nation’s capital.

D.C. is littered with the encampments of the homeless. They’re an army big enough to fill a city equipped with decayed tents, moldy cardboard, and packed shopping carts. Approximately 6,380 people are currently without a home according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. That means that for roughly every 110 people in Washington, D.C. one of them will be homeless. For further reference, Virginia (a state 625 times bigger than Washington D.C.) has only 5,957 people out on the streets.

Driving through the city is comparable to witnessing the aftermath of a multi year nightmare. Sure we’ve begun to recover but the damage caused during that time is still evident. A ride along the Potomac can display streets upon streets of vibrant community but a sudden turn will reveal a stretch of homeless war veterans struggling to get to their next meal.

Photo courtesy of Ben Johnson

The city now goes into further turmoil as Mayor Muriel Bowser pushes anti-encampment actions.

D.C. has begun removing homeless encampments and moving their residents into housing. Not by request, by mandate. The city forced out a stretch of tents next to the M Street underpass using a bulldozer. Once the space was cleared it was replaced with concrete barriers to prevent the establishment of a new camp.

Furthermore,  the city has begun welcoming in anti-homeless architecture. By all means it’s not a new concept, but D.C. is just starting to adopt the hostile architecture. Anti-sleep benches have popped up in Logan Circle, spikes line the edge of the Washington Circle underpass, and ghost amenities fill many public areas around the Northwest area of the city. The latter term refers to an absence of facilities in a public place. This can be seen in places such as Market Park where benches are non-existent.

Photo courtesy of Jack Rose

The sights in D.C. can be compared to those of third world countries. It’s a wasteland of the remains of people’s lives, ruined by an economic state that refuses to recover. There is no “right” way to recover, there is no “correct” way to fix homelessness. However, there are incorrect ways and right now D.C. is headed down that path. As we go into the months where a tent can be the difference between life and death, consider helping. Consider donating to a shelter. Or donating to a food bank such as ECHO inc. As warzoneesque as D.C. seems to be nowadays the people living there are not refugees from another country. They’re your fellow Americans, and they need your help.