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'If I'm drowning, how can I help them?' | DC mother joins housing advocates to call for rental assistance to be restored

The online rental assistant portal shut down with just 2 days notice

WASHINGTON — There’s more fall out from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser's proposed budget. The mayor said some tough choices had to be made. But housing advocates are pushing back against planned cuts that they say could force thousands of our neighbors out of their homes.

“I missed out spending my final days with her because she caught COVID," said Lark Yasmin, holding a picture of her frail mother in her hospital sick bed. 

Yasmin lost her mother and then her job during the height of the pandemic. Now, three years later, she is still mourning and struggling.

“I'm almost going to 40 and I'm tired of having to choose between food and rent to take care of my kids,” said Yasmin.

According to the housing advocacy group Empower DC, over 3,000 evictions have been filed so far this year. Court hearings are underway for the nearly 10,000 eviction cases from 2022. Now, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) families like Yasmin’s relied on, went away. The online portal shut down with just two days’ notice. The mayor’s proposed budget calling for a $35 million cut to the program.

"I believe the mayor’s budget takes us back to business as usual and is a slap in the face for those of us who have been working for racial equity and housing justice," Robert Warren from People for Fairness Coalition testified before the D.C. Council.

Advocates and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners testified before the Council's Housing Committee Monday about the planned budget cuts to affordable housing and the rental program. Nearly 50 groups signed a petition, urging the Mayor and Committee Chairperson Robert White to restore funding to $50 Million so people can stay in their homes.

"Next year I wanted to be a full-time student so that I can focus on school more; it’s looking like that's not going to an option if I have to keep helping with rent," said Yasmin’s 20-year-old son Quentin Ingram.

"I don't want to feel like I'm a bad parent for not being able to support them but I'm a single mom; I've been on my own since 18 when I had them,” Yasmin said.

“She is a good parent,” said Ingram, “I'm now older than her than she was taking care of a 1-year-old – homeless. I couldn't imagine doing that so to me that shows me how much she's been through.”

A family working hard to stay afloat, but just asking city leaders for a life jacket.

"If I'm drowning, how can I help them? It's like we're all in a sinking ship right now,” said Yasmin. “[District leaders] cannot keep on saying ‘oh, why is crime so bad?’ when you continue not doing enough for families."

The D.C. Council will continue having budget oversight hearings for the next month. Their first vote on the revised budget is May 16.

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