Photo by PoPville flickr user HLPinDC
On my way home from work tonight, I came across a lady sitting at the corner of New Hampshire and Randolph in Petworth. She was really bundled up, but looked confused and was sort of slouched over on the steps. Since there are not typically many homeless people in the area, and especially because she was carrying a suitcase, I was really curious about her situation. I stopped and asked her if she was alright, and she said yes. I asked if she had a place to stay tonight and she said no, she had been thrown out of her apartment building and didn’t have money to stay in a motel for the night. She was difficult to understand, but kept saying she hated shelters because they treat people so badly, but that she wasn’t sure where to stay. I asked if I could call someone for her, but she said there was no one to call. I went ahead and called 311 and they gave me a listing for an emergency shelter hotline, which I called too. They told me that every single shelter in DC was full tonight. I asked the man on the line if he had suggestions of what she should do for the night, but he told me that he “can’t make decisions for her” and hung up.
What is there to do in a situation like this? She didn’t ask me for any money, and she really didn’t seem like she knew what to do or where to go. She was an older lady, probably in her seventies, and really didn’t seem to be all there. I don’t have a place to offer for her to stay, but I gave her the twelve dollars I had in my wallet so she could maybe stay on the bus for a while or sit in a McDonalds or something. Do people have suggestions? More than anything, I wanted to share this story because it’s just so frustrating. Are there resources for temporary housing that someone can point a person like her toward?”