This letter was delivered to DC Council in anticipation of the November 7, 2017 initial Committee of the Whole vote on the Homeless Services Reform Amendment Act (“HSRA”) of 2017. Unfortunately, despite some amendments, everything in this letter still stands, and we are still asking organizations to sign on before the second vote. We’ve published a summary of the November 7th first vote, as has Fair Budget Coalition.

If you or someone else at your organization wishes to sign on to this letter, contact Amber Harding at amber@legalclinic.org, and spread the word using #VoteNoHSRABill!

Dear Chairman Phil Mendelson,

Councilmember Anita Bonds,

Councilmember David Grosso,

Councilmember Elissa Silverman,

Councilmember Robert White, Jr.,

Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau,

Councilmember Jack Evans,

Councilmember Mary M. Cheh,

Councilmember Brandon T. Todd,

Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie,

Councilmember Charles Allen,

Councilmember Vincent C. Gray, and

Councilmember Trayon White, Sr.

We are writing to urge you to vote no on the Homeless Services Reform Amendment Act (“HSRA”) of 2017.

The proposed changes to the Homeless Services Reform Act will not improve the quality and effectiveness of homeless services. Further, it will enshrine in law many practices that are harmful to those experiencing homelessness and housing instability in the District. In light of this, and the fact that the Chief Financial Officer has stated that the bill will result in zero fiscal savings, we recommend that you do not support this bill.

There is no data-driven basis to the assumption that significant numbers of people are fraudulently attempting to access emergency shelter, or have gained access when they do not in fact need shelter. The bill is based on this flawed assumption. In addition, it sets a higher barrier for homeless persons to document need than any other DC public benefit. The bill goes on to tighten the time frame in which families seeking emergency shelter can prove DC residency, leaving families out in the cold while they gather documents. It narrows eligibility for services, codifies arbitrary time limits for housing programs, and gives the Mayor broad authority to terminate people from shelter and housing without adequate safety protections.

The bill runs contrary to DC’s commitment to be a progressive, human rights city that believes in equality and promotes civil and human rights principles. As you know, homelessness disproportionately impacts people of color, particularly Black people, in DC. All thirteen DC Council members recently co-introduced a resolution, “Sense of the Council on Establishing Race, Equity, and Social Justice Resolution of 2017.”[1] Part of that resolution is to ask the Mayor to “implement a plan that will foster race, equity, and social justice in all of the government’s policy-making so as to increase fairness and opportunity for all people, with particular attention to those communities who have historically faced discrimination because of race, class, or gender status in accessing social services.” The time is now to live those values. It is upon you not just to ask the Mayor to implement a plan, but also to oppose any legislation, like this bill, that further restricts access to social services to those very communities.

DC’s affordable housing crisis is the primary cause of homelessness, and as a federal court judge recently concluded, based on the District’s own defense and evidence: “The state of affordable housing in the District is bleak.”[2] The District’s ability to end homelessness does not rest with the authority to increase barriers to shelter and to more easily terminate participants from housing or shelter program, as this bill proposes. The HSRA must reflect DC’s stated progressive values as we work toward ending the affordable housing crisis.

We, as you, are committed to the values in the Social Justice Resolution of 2017 and will work tirelessly to see that they are the driver of programs that we are implementing to serve poor and marginalized communities in DC. Please vote no on the Homeless Services Reform Amendment Act of 2017.

Sincerely,

ACLU of DC

Amara Legal Center

Ayuda

Bread for the City

Break the Cycle

Chesapeake Climate Action Network

Children’s Law Center

Consumer Action Network

DC Abortion Fund

DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence

DC for Democracy

DC Environmental Network, Global Green USA

DC Hunger Solutions

DC KinCare Alliance

DC National Lawyers Guild

DC SAFE

DC Statehood Green Party

DC Volunteer Lawyers Project

Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment & Appeals Project

Empower DC

Equal Rights Center

Fair Budget Coalition

Good Faith Communities Coalition

Iona Senior Services

Jews United for Justice

Legal Aid Society of DC

Legal Counsel for the Elderly

National Association of Social Workers – DC Metro Chapter

National Center for Housing and Child Welfare

National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty

ONE DC

People for Fairness Coalition

Positive Force DC

Thrive DC

Tzedek DC

University Legal Services

Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs

Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless

We Are Family

Rabbi Aaron Alexander, Senior Rabbi, Adas Israel Congregation, Ward 3

Jenefer Ellingston, DC Statehood Green Party

Deborah Epstein, Co-Director, Domestic Violence Clinic, Georgetown University Law Center

Trevor Boothe, Board Member, Iona Senior Services

Valerie Schneider, Associate Professor of Law, Interim Director of the Clinical Law Center Howard University School of Law

Whitney Shepard, Organizer, Movement for Black Lives DC

[1] http://lims.dccouncil.us/Download/38922/PR22-0524-Introduction.pdf

[2] Brown v. District of Columbia, 2017 WL 4081891 (D.D.C. Sept. 13, 2017), available at https://ecf.dcd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc?2010cv2250-257 (citation omitted).