Stop blaming the homeless

photo of a tent and the "rain" light art installation

A tent encampment cleanup was conducted at the M Street NE underpass on April 9, 2019. City cleanups are generally conducted in this area on a bi-weekly basis. Photo by Aaron Raubvogel

This article is part of our 2019 contribution to the DC Homeless Crisis Reporting Project in collaboration with other local newsrooms. You can see all of our collective work published throughout the day at and join the public Facebook group to discuss how to act on this information and add context to areas we may have overlooked. 


I can understand how people feel frustrated walking through that area of six-figure condo buildings. The constant beggars, the tent city that stretches from Union Station, Florida Avenue and First Street NE. As a Street Sense vendor who sells a homeless newspaper, it’s a bit unnerving even for me. 

But our energy should go towards Congress and the Wilson Building and the people who gave the green light to push out a lot of residents to build those fancy office buildings and expensive apartments. 

I have a few suggestions. Instead of complaining about the homeless encampment, let’s talk about solutions. 

  1. Build more housing for low-income families and individuals. All those fancy high prices apartments usually are empty for years anyway, so why not move a small percentage of those families into those apartments?
  2. Build more rehabilitation centers, since NoMa already has one on New York Avenue anyway. 
  3. Build more transitional housing for the mentally ill and substance abusers, and hire professional staff to be in those facilities. 

The Washington, D.C. city government has a bad habit of shifting blame. Start taking responsibility for low-income residents who paid their taxes. The city helped private developers create those encampments so now it’s up to everyone to do the right thing.

Everyone has hardships. Luxury apartment dwellers might end up homeless too if the market crashes or their employer folds. What are you going to do after deleting all of your savings? Not everyone has a family member to go to. 

Homelessness doesn’t discriminate. No homeless person wakes up and decides they want to be homeless and live in a tent! 

Aida Peery is a Street Sense Media artist and vendor. This is one of three responses to an open-letter letter written by the NoMa Business Improvement District that we published as a collection on Aug. 29. Read the others here.

Issues |Civil Rights|Criminalization of Homelessness|Encampments|Gentrification|Housing|Living Unsheltered

Region |NoMa|Ward 6|Washington DC

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We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.