Over 100 of DC’s seniors came out to advocate for affordable housing in their communities on Friday, December 13. They were joined by Councilmember Anita Bonds and Department of Housing and Community Development Director Michael Kelly as well as staff members of many other Council offices and government agencies. The activities took place at NCBA Estates, a senior residential building in the heart of Columbia Heights and was hosted by the Senior Advisory Coalition, AARP DC, and Housing For All. Here are the stories of some of the seniors who spoke out for housing.
Charles Freeman is 77 years old. He lived in the New York Avenue shelter for six months before finding affordable housing at SOME’s Kuehner’s House. Kuehner House was a vacant eyesore in Ward 8, which SOME converted to 48 single rooms and efficiencies for seniors with help from the Housing Production Trust Fund. “DC is my home and I’m not going anywhere. Everything was all bad and now life is good, real good.”
Cynthia Durham‘s story was captured in a Washington Post story about the event:
Cynthia Durham, 67, a retiree from Ward 5, said that for three or four years, she has been putting her name on waiting lists for affordable housing, which costs 30 percent of a tenant’s income. “They have given me no response except to tell me that I’m number 627 on the list at one place, and number 933 on the list at another place.”
She continued, “I’ll probably be in the grave before I get [affordable] housing”
Stephen Hall told his story. “I want to speak about how affordable housing has changed my life.
I am now 60 years old and I was once homeless. For a few years, I moved from shelter to shelter. I came from a good family and the last thing I expected to be was homeless. Being homeless affected my health. I caught TB once from a guy that stayed in the shelter and had to be on medication for 6 months. I now reside at Gasner House, affordable housing made available by SOME and the Local Rent Supplement Program. With the income I receive from SSI, I am able to pay 30% of my income, $245.00 a month to live in a furnished apartment. Affordable housing has allowed me to obtain part-time employment as a janitor. I am proud to say I just completed my GED courses and am waiting for the results. Affordable housing has given me my life back.”
Juanita Mckenzie is a life-long Washintonian, has been a member of her tenant association for over 30 years, and was the recent president of her tenant association. She’s an active participant of the Bernice Founteneau Senior Wellness Center, and a leader in CNHED’s Housing For All Campaign. Her home at 930, 940, 960 Randolph Street is just behind the new housing and Safeway development on Georgia Avenue and she appreciates the growing amenities, but worries about how the changes will affect her and other seniors. “What I fear most is that I will be displaced.”