By Cynthia Mewborn
Many people face eviction due to no fault of their own. Some have been harassed by a manager or supervisor for years. Whatever the situation, it often can have very little to do with the person who is involved.
When I recently sought help after losing my income more than seven months ago, I had never faced an eviction nor had my rent be overdue for months. It had never been difficult for me to find work either.
My landlord told me that I could receive help from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, but I was not prepared for what that meant: only 10 people can receive assistance at one time (I had to stay out in the cold for eight hours before being seen), or you have to be within the first 75 people to call in order to schedule an appointment with these agencies on a certain date (when you call, the lines stay busy until a recording announces “we’ve received our appointment for the month”).
According to D.C.’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), only individuals whose household includes at least one of the following–a child age 18 or under, an adult aged 60 or older, or people with a disability–are eligible. Hence, where do single men or women get help?
There is a definite disparity within this particular program when it comes to single men or women who face eviction. Everything that you’ve worked for or cherished is thrown out on the street or in the garbage for someone else to grab and put in their home. Meanwhile, we are left to seek shelter or lay out on the street because there is no emergency assistance for single men and women.
Although discrimination can be very subtle, its outcome always leaves a lasting impression. Poverty isn’t a policy issue, it’s a moral issue. ERAP has the opposite of its intended benefit on the population of single homeless men and women. The services that ERAP provides are needed by all. Perhaps when the program started, these clauses were satisfactory, but certainly with 7,000 homeless individuals in Washington, D.C., alone — 3,500 of which are single men and women — it’s time for a revision.
If our sole purpose is to prevent homelessness across the board, then it must start with programs that meet the needs of all who face emergency situations like these. Presently, the resources aren’t there.