Being poor in Washington means worrying about housing, survey finds

Mullen and the other co-authors of a report released Monday set out to paint a more nuanced portrait of what it means to be poor in the nation’s capital — by directly asking poor residents themselves.

News Story (District of Columbia)

Perry Stein
Washington Post
April 4, 2016

Tags: Poverty


The main takeaway: Finding and keeping affordable housing is by far the dominant stress among low-income residents — more so than concerns about food, education or domestic violence.

“I was surprised by the number of people who have a number of very serious problems. People that had really grave problems, problems with domestic [abuse], problems with childhood custody, and a very large percentage of them still said housing was their biggest problem,” Mullen said. “It really put it into a larger context.”

Researchers surveyed more than 600 low-income residents about their most persistent stresses and what steps — successful or unsuccessful — they have taken to remedy their problems. All survey participants had incomes at 200 percent or less of the federal poverty level, which is $24,300 for a family of four.

The nonprofit DC Consortium of Legal Services Providers, which sponsored the study, sought to determine whether these residents knew their full legal rights. The group also hoped to use the responses to learn how nonprofits and government agencies in D.C. could better serve the residents.