Closing DC General – Yes, but…...

In Spring 2018 Mayor Bowser announced that the DC General Family Shelter would close in October 2018. At of the end of August, 525 families with more than 1100 children lived in city run family shelters.

Construction of Short-term Family Housing facilities (STFH) in each of seven wards is intended to provide sufficient shelter capacity in the future for families in the city with no safe place to live. The intent is for families to live in this short term housing for no more than 60 days.  At the end of this stabilization period, most families would be placed in housing through the Rapid Re-Housing program. Families become lease holders on an apartment, pay 40% of the rent with the remainder subsidized by the City for up to one year.  At the end of the year, the lease holder is responsible for the full rent.  

Challenges remain:
Rapid Re-Housing works successfully for families temporarily thrown into poverty because of a lost job, illness and other situations that can resolve within a year.  The program is less successful for families who experience generational poverty, are chronically homeless, or have few skills that would lead to steady employment. For many living in deep poverty, assuming the full rent is not possible.  New long term housing vouchers are scarce and available for only for a few families with the greatest need. 

The Neighbors for Responsible Government have appealed the Board of Zoning Adjustment
waivers allowing construction of the new short term family housing on the Ward 3 site. Though the case was heard on March 29, 2018 in the Court of Appeals, there has been no decision as of mid September. Some members of the ANC local to the Ward 3 STFH site filed a second appeal in September 2018 on a design change to the plan: an outdoor patio that could accommodate 62 people has been added.  A neighborhood group in Ward 5 have also appealed: the location of the Ward 5 short term family housing.

Daunting Facts:
Fair market rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in DC is $1793/month. 70% of the families in the Rapid Re-Housing Program receive Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) – $644 per month for family of 3. For many, TANF provides the family’s only income

Close to 72,000 households including 107,000 individuals in DC participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) monthly to put food on the table.

The Washington Post reported this week that 6,000 children from families considered homeless (in shelter, doubled up, living in unsafe conditions) began the school year in the DC public and charter schools.            ____________________________________________________________________

We pray for those in positions of civic authority, servants of all the people. May their compassion, understanding and just actions lead to a city that measures its greatness by the care it provides for its people in need. Rev. John Graham, Grace Episcopal Church, Georgetown
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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).