The goal of Friendship Place is to give people experiencing homelessness or those at risk of homelessness a chance to rebuild their lives and attain stable housing. Its mission is to make sure everyone has a place to call “home” and end homelessness in Washington, DC.
Yimka Odebode, the Assistant Director of Media, Marketing, and Communications at Friendship Place, said that that majority of services that they offer are “solution-driven.” This organization currently has eight offices throughout the DC metro region and one in Maryland and Virginia.
“We are located in communities that allow us to be accessible to the people who need our services,” Odebode said.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) made tackling homelessness a priority during her campaign for re-election. She is hoping to have 36,000 new housing units by 2025 to keep up the demand for housing. She is calling for an “all-eight-ward challenge” to bring new housing and tackle homelessness within the next four years. The Department of Human Services (DHS) stated that homelessness has decreased by 7.6% since 2017 and 17.3% since 2016.
In 2015, Bowser released a strategic plan called Homeward DC to take place from 2015-2020, led by the District of Columbia Interagency Council on Homelessness. In her plan, she stated that “together we will end long-term homelessness.” Bowser had three primary goals for this plan at the time: end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, end chronic homelessness by the end of 2017, and by 2020 any household experiencing a housing loss will be rehoused.
“When the [Homeward] plan first came out, we thought it was a good start of a plan, but it was a little ambitious. DC has had a homelessness problem for as long as DC has existed and it has only been getting worse. The way the plan was written was very interesting about the dates for when shelters were gonna close, but there was not necessarily a plan for how the shelters were going to close,” said Kristi Matthews of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless.
Matthews continued, “I do not think at the rate the Mayor is going right now, the programs will help…Unless we do a drastic shift and start building housing for those who truly need it then no I do not think those programs will be successful for eliminating the homeless crisis.”
In 2019, Mayor Bowser plans to open three additional short-term family housing programs in Wards 3, 5, and 6 through Homeward DC. In Mayor Bowser’s 2019 Fiscal Year Budget, it included a $29 million investment in Homeward DC.
“The Bowser Administration has launched a Homelessness Prevention Program which has prevented a shelter stay for more than 6,000 families; increased investments in permanent housing programs by nearly 60 percent; expanded year-round access to shelter; and connected 3,900 single adults to permanent housing, including 1,700 veterans,” said a representative from the Department of Human Services. \
Out of the 7,000-homeless people counted by the City of Washington, DC, only around 1,700 have checked into shelters this winter, according to wjla.com. The poor conditions have turned many away causing them to stay outside in unsafe conditions. DHS has emergency homeless shelters all over DC, and they stated, “Residents’ rooms, inspected on a weekly basis, are checked for pest including rodents, mice, and bedbugs.” If residents report pests or bugs, “pest control technicians [will] service the sites 24-48 hours.”
Friendship Place was founded in 1991 as a 50-bed emergency shelter, this local organization is very versed in how to handle homelessness.
Friendship Place has numerous housing programs to accommodate the many people that walk through their door. They have a “person-to-person case management” model to ensure that people who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness find and keep stable housing. Friendship Place’s Welcome Center provides individuals with hygienic needs, food, clothing, and even gives them access to free medical and mental health services.
In 2018, Friendship Place ended homelessness for 1449 persons, including 472 children and 439 veterans, through customized housing solutions. The numbers of Friendship Place fluctuate every month depending on the weather.
“The Welcome Center supports participants with basic needs such as food, showers, laundry, personal hygiene supplies, and access to free medical and mental health services,” said Odebode.
“All participants are offered supportive case management who provides assistance in achieving identified goals, such as obtaining housing,” said Odebode. Friendship Place is making strides to end homelessness with one program at a time. They are leaving their mark on the community and Ward 3.