It’s always hard living on the street, but harder in the extreme weather we have in Washington D.C.
I’ve seen homeless people get sick constantly, and I’ve even heard about people dying in tents due to bad weather, especially heat waves. When the heat reaches 90 degrees and above, it raises concerns for the encampment outreach and other homeless organizations. These organizations start to bring food, water and supplies to those in need. We just don’t know how to thank these organizations for their help in blunting the impact of the heat that threatens more of the homeless community each year. I just want to send my prayers for them to get shelter, food, all they need.
However, the city’s policies have also made the situation worse. I have witnessed the homeless encampments being shut down, which puts lives and safety at risk.
I think the law should not prevent people from sleeping in public spaces. Homeless people should be able to sleep on sidewalks, on park benches, and in camps with no problem. I think that in every state, as long as it isn’t private or federal property, homeless people should be able to camp where they feel safe — especially since with more and more extreme seasons, finding a safe place that’s shaded from the sun and the beating rain can be a matter of life and death.
It is unfair to target homeless people and jail them for trying to survive. Sleeping outside should not be a crime. Forcing them to move is inhumane.
But just having a space to camp isn’t enough. I live the experience of homelessness myself. When I was struggling to find food and water and suffering from dehydration, I spoke to outreach teams about providing more of those basic necessities to campsites. Sadly, this summer food and water drip offs have been very limited. Poor people and the homeless have to go out in search of water, food, and cool air.
Health and safety teams should come and check on the homeless because I seen many of them sick because of something preventable. My prayers go to the ones who have slept on the street for a long time, the elderly and disabled people I’ve witnessed in particular going into hospitals due to extreme weather. I just hope and pray for a solution to the problem.
Amina Washington is a vendor and artist with Street Sense Media.