Approved DC Budget makes important investments, but leaves much to be accomplished in homeless services

Homeward DCDC’s acclaimed strategic plan to end homelessness was a #1 priority in FY2016.  Progress has been made in FY2016 in infrastructure design and alignment as well as service delivery.  Particularly significant accomplishments include year round shelter for homeless families with no safe place to live, reduction in chronic homelessness through Permanent Supportive Housing and the highly successful homelessness prevention program.  Year two of the plan (FY2017) required approximately $35 M of new operating money to continue progress on meeting the plan’s goals.

The Mayor added $7.9 million to the homeless services budget. The Council added another $2M spread over specific programs such as Rapid Re-housing for individuals and rental subsidies for seniors.  $25M additional needed for year two of the strategic plan was not funded.  The need to develop a permanent Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) time limit policy to protect vulnerable families and to meet children’s basic needs as well as addressing the true needs of the chronically homeless were left unaddressed.  Addressing these issues at a scale that is needed to truly impact the problem is expensive.  These challenges will continue to be major problems for the city.

DC Fiscal Policy Institute provides a comprehensive overview of the new budget’s strengths and weaknesses as it relates to the poor and vulnerable in the city:  Approved DC Budget Makes Important New Investments But Also Leaves Some Large Gaps.

Bowser at signing
Mayor’s Newsletter – Signing Ceremony

New Plan for Temporary Housing in Neighborhoods for Families (DC General replacement).  In last minute action, the Council introduced and passed a new plan for neighborhood shelters ( B21-620 and Committee Report).  The Council plan was based on a premise that “it is in the best interest of the District to construct these new temporary-shelter facilities on District owned land.”  Other factors that influenced the Council included the cost-effectiveness of owning the land and facilities over time, the inadequacy of some of the proposed sites as well as zoning barriers that were unlikely to be overcome.   The Council believed that the new plan will not impede closing DC General in FY2018.

$100 million was appropriated to acquire land where needed – $40 million previously appropriated for the Mayor’s plan and $60 million transferred from the Coolidge High School renovation project (unlikely to be needed until FY2018 at the earliest). The Council plan relocated the Mayor’s proposed shelters in Wards 3, 5 and 6 to city owned property.   Shelters in Wards 1 and 4 will require land purchase or acquiring land through eminent domain.  The Mayor signed the bill on June 13, 2016.

Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless strongly supports the new plan.  “this is how democracy should work.”  Significant Progress on the Plan to Close DC General.  _________________________________
Shelter Census, June 27, 2016: 860 families with 1670 children resided in shelter or transitional housing on this date.  1032 single men and women also resided in shelters.
                                                                    IN THE NEWS
Homeward DC, 2015-2020. Inter-agency Council on Homelessness Strategic Plan, 2015-2020.  Read Executive Summary.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, 2016 Point in Time survey of regional homelessness.  Read report.
Newsletter current and previous.
Biblical Roots of Justice – Foundation of the Journey for Justice:  an interfaith conversation on homelessness and the Journey for Justice for our neighbors who are without homes (10 minutes)