Closing DC General – Yes, but…...

In Spring 2018 Mayor Bowser promised that the DC General Family Shelter would close in October 2018. The shelter has closed.

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 90 days. The average length of stay in shelter at present is 227 days.  At the end of this stabilization period in shelter/short term family housing, 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.  Once the lease is signed, the city considers the client “permanently housed.” At the end of the year, the lease holder is responsible for the full rent.  In mid December, 280 individuals and 1842 families were participating in the Rapid Re-Housing program. 

Challenges remain:
Rapid Re-Housing is a widely used, nationally vetted, program. The program is generally successful for families or individuals  temporarily thrown into poverty because of job loss, illness or other short term setbacks that can be resolved with help within a year.  The program is less successful for those who experience generational poverty, are chronically homeless, or have few skills that would lead to a steady income in the short term. For many living in deep poverty, assuming full rent (often more than $1700 a month for a 2 bedroom apartment) is not possible after a year of assistance. However, the city considers them “permanently housed,” no longer in need of city housing assistance. New long term housing vouchers are scarce and available for only for a few families with the greatest need. 

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.

On Christmas day 2018, 603 families in DC lived in emergency shelter: 408 in motels; 87 in apartment style units; 108 in short term family housing.  6,000 children from families considered homeless (in shelter, doubled up, living in unsafe conditions) began this school year in the DC public and charter schools.   

READ MORE:  Building the Foundation – A Blueprint for Creating Affordable Housing for DC’s Lowest Income Residents.  Claire Zippel, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, April 2018.       


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
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).