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Homeless mothers, kids struggle finding shelter in D.C.

Wednesday - 7/17/2013, 7:38am  ET

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Shakithia Truesdale uses her phone to try and contact shelters in the area outside of a cooling center in Northeast Washington on Tuesday, July 16. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
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WASHINGTON - As the heat rises and increased demand puts a strain on shelters and resources across the city, homeless women and children likely will have the hardest time finding a respite from the weather.

Shakithia Truesdale and her 4-year-old daughter spent the entire day Tuesday in a cooling center set up at the Virginia Williams Family Resource Center in Northeast D.C. Her 8-year-old daughter spent the day at camp.

But this pregnant mother started worrying the moment she woke up, she says, about where they'll stay the night.

"I had to call Child Protective Services because I don't have nowhere for me and my kids to sleep for the night," Truesdale says.

Shelters with air conditioning are in high demand on an extreme weather day. Walk-in space at Central Union Mission's shelter in Northwest was claimed almost as soon as staff opened the doors Tuesday morning, says David Treadwell, the mission's executive director.

But Truesdale's predicament highlights a need in the District's homeless services that is currently not being met, Treadwell says.

He says there are only a few shelter spaces available in the city for mothers and children, but that it's a shortage the community is working to fix.

"I would say my first concern is that mother with children sleeping in the car -- if there's any way for any of us with resources to find her and especially get water to her. Is there a good bathroom somewhere close by that she can use?" Treadwell says.

While Truesdale's case presents a challenge, Treadwell says the city is improving its services for the homeless.

"The city has, I think, so much better (of a) support network than it did 10 years ago. If they go to the Mitch Snyder Center, or up on New York Avenue or up on what's called 810 East. There are others. There are places available that, to the best of my knowledge, do have space most evenings," Treadwell says.

D.C.-area homeless shelters are connected through a shelter hotline at 1-800-535-7252.

Learn more about open cooling centers, current conditions and weather-related health warnings here.

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