In Anacostia, crime, including violent crime, is reported as 38% higher than in the rest of the District of Columbia. Per capita income is just over half of the per capita income for the District as a whole. More than half of home sales in the fourth quarter of 2010 were foreclosure-related transactions. Unemployment was 25.1% in 2011, compared to 10% for all of DC. High school dropout rates continue to be around 40%, and 24.1% of residents lack a high school diploma. Females head 75% of households, and 47% of children live in poverty. Drugs and gang activity continue to be pervasive.
Once envisioned as a commercial and manufacturing center, Anacostia now finds itself isolated from the bulk of the city. “We’re within walking distance of the Capitol but we might as well be a million miles away,” said Anthony Muhammad, chairman of Anacostia’s 8A Advisory Neighborhood Council (ANC).
At ANC monthly meetings, residents voice concerns about issues, complaining that drug dealing is happening in plain sight. “Abandominiums,” abandoned houses that have been turned over to the city because owners have died or taxes have gone unpaid, host squatters and drug dealers.
Crime and Violence
In the District of Columbia overall, homicides reached record lows in 2010, but homicides increased in Ward 8, Anacostia. Decreases in the number of Metropolitan Police Department officers have been especially severe in Anacostia.
Real efforts are ongoing to improve Anacostia Senior High School (ASHS), which is a block and a half away from The House and the school attended by most of our students. According to a 2013 study conducted by US News and World Report, Anacostia High School has a 100% minority enrollment (99% African American and 1% Hispanic) with 89% of the students considered economically disadvantaged; 86% receiving free lunches; 2% receiving reduced rate lunches; 17% rated proficient in reading; 12% proficient in math; and almost half of all students functioning below basic skill levels in these subjects. Only 6.9% of students tested as ready for college and 16% of students participated in recently added AP classes with only 23% of those students passing.
The House has been a strong partner with ASHS since 2004, presenting programs for the students, monitoring the lunch room, and working with school staff and administration. Staff members from The House have been instrumental in working through many issues with students, staff and parents, including academic performance, attendance, parental problems, student truancy and juvenile delinquency. The House has been a trusted partner, and ASHS faculty and staff rely on our participation.
Culture of Poverty
There are harsh realities facing the students we serve at The House. Without intervention, their chances for success are less than average, and often nonexistent. The House DC is and has been the best support and guide these young people and their families have. In our work with other groups, we hear over and over again that The House is an invaluable and crucially needed resource. We partner with trusted allies and understand the importance of working together. Never has the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” been as relevant as today in describing the need for adult involvement in the Black community