Anthony Ashton: From Homeowner to Homeless

Ashton describes homelessness as an endless cycle of monotony: “I do the same thing every day and feel trapped at times.” He accepts what he thinks is his fate. “It doesn’t faze me anymore and the only time it hinders me is when it’s winter.”

In January, when temperatures were falling below freezing, Samaritan Ministry of Greater Washington’s (SMGW) homeless participants, like Anthony Ashton, was sleeping outside risking hypothermia. Ashton, 53 years old, has been homeless for more than six years. A native Washingtonian, he has had more than his share of ups and downs.

In September of 1999, Ashton and his daughter moved out of his uncle’s home and bought his own home after recently securing what he thought was ‘job security’ at the DC Lottery Board. Despite Ashton’s newfound independence, the move put a strain on the relationship between Ashton and his uncle. 

Feeling a sense of financial security, Ashton was able to provide for himself and daughter. Unfortunately, three months after purchasing his home he was laid off by his job. 

Facing potential homelessness Ashton recalled, “If it wasn’t for my daughter I would have been homeless at that moment.” Although Ashton’s relationship with his mother was limited due to her lack of involvement in his childhood, Ashton was determined to keep his daughter safe. So he reached out to his mother. Ashton and his daughter lived with his mother from 1999-2008. 

When Ashton’s mother died in 2008, he continued to pay the rent as if she were alive. Eventually in 2009 the rental company found out and tried to evict him immediately.As winter approached, Ashton feared becoming homeless. Again motivated to protect his family, he went to court to challenge the rental company’s eviction and won his case. Since he had responsibly made all the rent payments throughout 2008, he was considered a permanent resident. 

However according to Ashton, after the hearing the rental company refused to take his checks. “The rental manager told me she couldn’t accept my check and handed it back,” said Ashton. “From July 2008 until July 2009 I stayed in that apartment rent free.” When spring came, Ashton found his belongings on the curb! Apparently, because the company did not ‘receive’ his checks for almost a year they could now legally evict him.

Ashton explains, “The reason why I got away with not paying rent for so long is because DC can’t legally evict you during the winter.” When trying to go to court Ashton said, “Every time we went to court during that year they kept prolonging the case and not accepting my rent.” 

Forced to face the loss of his home Ashton was able to find stable housing for his daughter with her mother’s relatives, while he became homeless. He began to sleep outdoors preferring to sleep on the street than homeless shelters. He feared the dangerous conditions found in the shelters. He even witnessed a close friend of his murdered in a shelter by another resident over a petty argument.

Ashton has been able to find temporary housing off and on since 2009. He considers himself homeless.

According to the Washington Post, last winter 11,946 people were considered homeless in the D.C. region. That number has increased 3.5% from the previous year.

Ashton describes homelessness as an endless cycle of monotony: “I do the same thing every day and feel trapped at times.” He accepts what he thinks is his fate. “It doesn’t faze me anymore and the only time it hinders me is when it’s winter.” 

Samaritan Ministry is dedicated to helping people, like Ashton, by providing the tools to allow for self-empowerment. Samaritan Ministry helps Ashton through relational casework, resume writing, job leads, and bus tokens so he can apply for work. Samaritan Ministry also provides participants food, toiletries, and clothing (such as coats in the winter). “Prior to me coming here I didn’t have a resume and now I do, plus now I have an address to get my mail sent to,” said Ashton.

“Samaritan Ministry launched Empower the Homeless (ETH) because of participants like Ashton,” said Rev. David B. Wolf, Executive Director. Ashton is homeless and has a grandson he is trying to care for. He needs a job and a home.  He is facing a temptation we all face – give up or try harder. We’re here to help him try harder.

The Empower the Homeless campaign began April 1, 2015. Samaritan Ministry is still looking for volunteers to help us tell their story, parishes and schools to host events and help SMGW raise awareness of the growing homeless population. Also, donations and sponsorships to help us continue helping participants like Anthony Ashton. Click HERE to learn more about the campaign if you’re interested in helping and assisting Samaritan Ministry end the vicious cycle of homelessness in the DC community.