WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Keeping a homeless person alive costs $50,000 but putting that same person in a home with ongoing services costs only $25,000. So no matter how you feel about homelessness, whether you feel they are to blame or it's morally wrong to have folks live on the street, advocates say it makes financial sense to get them off the streets.
There are 3,000 chronically homeless men, women, and children in DC. Reggie Black is one of them.
"I actually became homeless in 2008," he said.
Reggie's mom died when he was 7 years old. He barely graduated alternative high school and then his father, fed up with his son's criminal behavior, kicked him out. He was 18. "First, I slept on the porch, then in his car a couple of days, then someone came and led me to the furnace or boiler room and I stayed there for like six months," recalled Reggie.
I asked if he blamed his dad for what happened in his life. "Not anymore," he replied.
By day Reggie edits the homeless newspaper Street Sense in its headquarters at the Church of the Epiphany on G Street, NW. By night, he bounces around from soup kitchens to free lectures. The only way he can guarantee a bed is by making it to the Adams Shelter by 7 p.m.
We met up with Reggie at the height of this winter's arctic blast when the stinging cold made being outside brutal during the day; unbearable, and potentially deadly, at night.
"Aren't you tired?" I ask.
"Yes," he replied sounding exasperated, "but…"
On bitterly cold nights the city tries hard to get the homeless off the streets. But many insist on staying out here. Still, few are as lucky as Davinia and Bryan. "Just because we're homeless doesn't mean we don't know how to love," said Davinia.
The couple celebrated their one year wedding anniversary on Valentine's Day and despite their obvious challenges they feel fulfilled. The pair know where to bathe, eat, and how to get free health care. They've even rubbed elbows with some visiting celebrities.
Davinia's disability check gave them enough cash to buy a tablet, cellphone, and an electric hand warmer that radiates just enough heat to keep them warm inside their tent given to them recently by a church after the passing of their friend Elgin, a homeless man who died on the street.
"Do you ever feel like as a man you should be a provider for your wife?" I ask Bryan.
"Absolutely! Do I provide for her? I provide everything she needs," he said.
Davinia interrupted saying "Girl, I want for nothing. I get manicures..."
But then I interjected. "But don't you think that's a house, a roof over your heads?"
"Well," Brian responded sheepishly, "I want them for myself."
They were on the waiting list, they say, but didn't qualify for housing because Bryan had a job making $500 a week as a bouncer, until the boss saw him crawling into a cardboard box after his shift.
"I got to watch myself because I don't like to be angry," said Bryan, thinking about being turned down, "I have 26 years of prison life."
So they remain grateful, work the system and pray for a home one day. So does Reggie; and although he has a warm bed at night, he knows the shelter is not getting him closer to his goal.
"it's good they keep you alive but they need to be moving people to the next level," he said, "it's not healthy being there."
There is a movement nationwide to place our homeless neighbors into stable housing. In Phoenix, they ended chronic homelessness among its 222 veterans. In Nashville, homeless are being housed in the 100,000 homes campaign. These are models, D.C. is hoping to follow to put the end the homeless crisis.
Stay tuned to WUSA9 and WUSA9.com for continued coverage of the "Cost of Homelessness." Delia Gonçalves will have part 2 of her 3 part series Thursday morning at 5:50 where she takes a closer look at what programs in place are working to get people off the streets, including a former White House Banquet Chef who lost everything to alcoholism.