Recent estimates put the amount of homelessness children in the United States at 2.5 million. This number does not take into consideration those children who are not accounted for in the census, making the real amount much higher.
In 2016, Washington DC saw the number of homeless families begin to outnumber the amount of homeless single adults. Many factors contribute to this, from lack of housing affordability, due to increase in rental prices, to social and governmental failures.
Back in October, I volunteered to shoot portraits with The Homeless Children’s Playtime Project, an organization looking to combat the effects of homelessness on youth in the city. These children often exhibit behavioral problems, they suffer from anxiety and depression and at times are victims of violence and abuse. They are twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school, and many times lag significantly behind in development when compared to other children.
Kids develop considerably through play, and recreation is significantly restricted in shelters. The organization tries to counter that by creating an environment which allows children to have a sense of normalcy. Volunteers create play programs that provide children with an adequate outlet, allows them to heal and cope and teaches them proper behavior, encouraging their families to become active members of the process along the way.
I joined them for their Halloween party at D.C. General Shelter, a dilapidated structure, notorious for the disappearance of Relisha Rudd in 2014. The shelter is what remains of DC General Hospital, before it closed its doors some time ago. Here in what seemed to be an old waiting area, volunteers had set up a verity of activities, they ranged from finger painting and games to an indoor haunted house.
The volunteers ranged in backgrounds and professions, many of them having moved to DC in recent years. One thing they all had in common was the love they showed towards these children. The children in turn had a blast, and I for one was glad to be a part of it. The experience was that of a large family gathering, everyone doing their part to ensure these kids a Happy Halloween.