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Credit: Amanda Michelle Gomez

“It gets better after a while,” sang Tony Burns with Miriam’s Kitchen. “Help someone who needs to know, it gets better after a while.”

Burns strongly believe the words he sang—he has experienced homelessness several times over the course of his life, as a child and later as an adult when his family grew “tired” of him, he says, for being gay and living with HIV. He wasn’t supposed to make it to 50. But he did, and then some, recently turning 60 years old. 

Burns was met with tears and applause from those that gathered at Luther Place Memorial Church Thursday evening to hear him and others speak on homelessness, and to honor D.C. residents who died in 2019 without the dignity of a home. 

This was the People for Fairness Coalition’s seventh annual memorial vigil. This year, the number of D.C. residents who died without a house is at least 81. Some of their names—68-year-old Adeheid Russelland 60-year-old William Randolph, to name a few—were on a white sheet of paper placed atop of all the church pews. Later, after an hour-long service, attendees would march the streets of D.C., holding signs with their names.

“One person dying without housing is a tragedy. 81 dying on the streets of D.C. is unacceptable,” said Miriam’s Kitchen’s Jesse Rabinowitz, who helped organize the vigil. 

Credit: Amanda Michelle Gomez

Over the past five years, over 265 people died without housing. More tragic, these deaths are preventable, say advocates. Currently 4,500 individuals are experiencing homelessness in the District. “Housing improves our health… and saves lives,” says Waldon Adamswith the Way Home Campaign. 

That’s why he and coalition members are calling on Mayor Muriel Boswer and Council to support universal housing rights for anyone earning $40K or less, and this includes supporting bills like the Fair Tenant Screen Act. And to spend a total of $1.5 billion a year, a 9 percent increase, in several programs like rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing that produce and preserve homes for low-income residents. But that’s not it—it’s also about addressing issues that lead to homelessness, namely poverty. These homeless services, for example, can’t solve for low-paying jobs.        

For readers, here are tips on how everyone can help, per Rabinowitz and organizer Emcee Qaadir El-Amin: donate, talk to elected officials from the Council to Advisory Neighborhood Commission about homelessness, and develop relationships with everyone in your neighborhood. Maybe start with “hello.” —Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? Email agomez@washingtoncitypaper.com

CITY DESK LINKS, byAmanda Michelle Gomez:

  • Local rapper No Savage visits his alma mater, Washington Metropolitan High, in a show of solidarity with students who risk having their school closed by the mayor. [WCP]   

  • Local prosecutors pursue indictment in the park police shooting of unarmed driver, Bijan Ghaisar, after Justice Department declines to. [DCist]

  • Charters suggest where new schools should go in Council hearing. [DCPCS

  • A Dupont Circle strip club and neighborhoods debate its name, Assets. [Post]

LOOSE LIPS LINKS, by Mitch Ryals (tips? mryals@washingtoncitypaper.com

  • Only some members of the DC Housing Authority board were invited to the mayor’s floor in the Wilson Building to meet ahead of a close vote on the controversial plan to redevelop its headquarters. [WBJ]

  • EagleBank’s former CEO and chairman Ron Paul emailed Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans a list of developers to help grow his consulting business in 2016. [DC Line]

  • A member of Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White’s staff died last night. [Twitter]

  • Maya Rockeymoore Cummings mixed charity and business. She’s running for her late husband, Elijah Cummings’ congressional seat. [Post]

  • Bowser released a report on health care systems in D.C. [WBJ]

YOUNG & HUNGRY LINKS, by Laura Hayes (tips? lhayes@washingtoncitypaper.com

  • Taqueria del Barrioowner says her restaurant received death threats, possibly from a white supremecist group. [WCP]

  • ABC Pony, reviewed. [Post]

  • Timber Pizza Co. and Founding Farmers will open outposts at National airport. [WBJ]

  • These bars aren’t charging a cover on New Year’s Eve. [Washingtonian]

ARTS LINKS, by Kayla Randall (tips? krandall@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • The Sleigher: Lauren Daigle, “The Christmas Song” [WCP]

  • Liz at Large: “Best” [WCP]

  • D.C. indie-soul bandOh He Dead has found itself. [DCist]

  • Meet the Washington designers who will dress you to impress. [Washingtonian]

SPORTS LINKS, by Kelyn Soong (tips? ksoong@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • Last year, City Paper published an article on squash with the headline, “Is D.C. the Future Capital of Squash?” And for one week this month, the answer is a resounding, “Yes.” The Men’s World Squash Team Championships wrap up at Squash on Fire in Northwest tomorrow. [DCist, Post

  • It’s the battle of the 3-11 teams when the Washington football team faces off against the Giants on Sunday. [AP]

  • Another slow start, another loss for the No. 7 ranked Maryland men’s basketball team. [ESPN]

  • The Nats and Mystics winning their respective championships is the biggest local business story of the year, according to Washington Business Journal. [WBJ]

MAKE PLANS, by Emma Sarappo (Love this section? Get the full To Do This Week newsletter here. Tips? esarappo@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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