For 7 years, 60-year-old, Walter Douglas Brooks trudged through the streets of D.C., looking for a bed and a free meal. Today, off the streets and into an apartment funded by the Housing First program, Brooks says he has regained a sense of purpose.
Alexis Kenyon reports…
Alexis Kenyon: Brooks unplugs his wheelchair from the charger and grins a large, toothless smile as he cruises around the one room studio apartment.
Walter Brooks:Watchin TV, ya know? I got my dresser, two lamps, a big bed.
Kenyon: It’s been four months since Brooks moved into the Woodner apartments near Mount Pleasant, and he couldn’t be prouder.
Brooks: When the lady told me I could move up here, that was the happiest day of my life. Well respected. Then they call me Mr. Brooks. But now I’m Mr. Brooks and I got my own place.
Kenyon: Jill Carmichael is a program manager for Housing First in the District. She says so far the city has placed more than 400 homeless people in permanent homes.
Jill Carmichael: The approach is designed to house people first, and, once you have shelter taken care of, then you can deal with or work on substance abuse, mental health, medical, even job education.
Kenyon: Meanwhile, Walter Brooks now volunteers at a shelter where he often slept.
Brooks: I surprised a whole lot of people. Boy, it felt good. When you’re looked at, and not judged. When they see you, and you see yourself, that’s the best thing.
Kenyon: D.C.’s slice of the housing first budget for 2009 is $19 million dollars. For 2010 they are looking to expand, but are waiting on federal funds.
Alexis Kenyon WAMU 88.5 News.