The Way Home Campaign Invites City Leaders, Candidates to Better Understand the Experience of Living in Homelessness

The Way Home Campaign Invites City Leaders, Candidates to Better Understand the Experience of Living in Homelessness

“A Walk in Our Shoes” Program Takes Participants through the Unseen Pressures and Dangers Faced By Washington’s Homeless Community

September 12, 2014 – Washington, D.C. – The Way Home campaign, a grassroots advocacy campaign to end chronic homelessness in the District of Columbia by 2017, today kicked off the inaugural “Walk in our Shoes” event. The program is designed to give city leaders and mayoral candidates a hands-on experience of the quality of life experienced by chronically homeless District residents. To date, the Way Home Campaign has invited the three leading candidates for Mayor. They were joined this morning by mayoral candidate, Carol Schwartz.

“There are an estimated 1,764 chronically homeless individuals in Washington, D.C. They live each day with the pressure of finding food, shelter and safety,” said Kurt Runge, Advocacy Director for Miriam’s Kitchen and founding member of the Way Home campaign. “Too often, we shield ourselves from their experience, and ignore the need for a solution. ‘A Walk in our Shoes’ is all about getting better insight into the experience of homelessness, so that our city can take action to end chronic homelessness in D.C.”

The event kicks off at 7:00 AM, at Lafayette Park, a common gathering place for the District’s chronically homeless population after the shelters close for the day. At Lafayette Park, attendees will hear from homeless District residents, about the stressful circumstances that dominate their daily routine.

“People may not realize that a homeless morning usually starts before dawn,” said Sarahe, one of the guides, who was homeless for 19 months before being housed in early July. “There are only seven showers at the shelter, and you have to leave every day at 7:00 AM, so if you aren’t up at 5:00, you don’t get a shower. As soon as you’re dressed and out, the first thing to do is to try and find something to eat, since there’s no food at the shelter. You’re constantly hungry, tired and stressed.”

From Lafayette Park, participants will begin the 11 block walk to Miriam’s Kitchen, where chronically homeless individuals commonly gather for breakfast and case management services. Along the way, guides will educate city leaders about the common dangers that they have faced during their time on the streets, including threats from violence, drugs and a sense of isolation from the rest of the city.

“People who are homeless are vulnerable,” said Kevin, who has been without a home for almost one year. “I’ve witnessed so many crimes against our homeless neighbors. I once saw a group of teens threatening a homeless man with bottles. If I hadn’t intervened, no one would have protected him. It’s a dangerous life that no one deserves.”

Upon arriving at Miriam’s Kitchen, participants will be invited to dine with other homeless guests, and hear directly about the day-to-day challenges they face. Following breakfast, participants will be invited to a brief presentation and Q&A, led by advocate, Waldon Adams. Adams’ personal story illustrates the power of Housing First, a model of Permanent Supportive Housing, as the cornerstone for overcoming his years of homelessness and chronic health conditions.

“Housing First is a proven solution to chronic homelessness,” said Runge. “It has a 92 percent success rate in Washington, D.C., and it is demonstrated to be more cost effective than keeping a person on the streets on in shelters for years at a time. We are hopeful that our city’s leaders and Mayoral Candidates will join us to better understand why it is critical that we join together as a city to take on chronic homelessness.” The Way Home Campaign hopes to engage all members of the D.C. Council to participate in “A Walk in Our Shoes” throughout the fall.

The Way Home:  Ending Chronic Homelessness in D.C. is a grassroots advocacy campaign to end chronic homelessness in the District of Columbia by 2017. It is composed of a community network of non-profit organizations, faith-based communities, and concerned citizens. The Way Home campaign seeks to energize the entire community around this goal by raising awareness to the causes and solutions to chronic homelessness and building public support to make this a priority in D.C.

Press Contact:
Tom Murphy
Director of Communication
Miriam’s Kitchen (on Behalf of the Way Home Campaign)
(202) 452-8926 ext 235