The Homeless Services Reform Amendment Act of 2017 (the HSRA bill) is now before the DC Council’s Committee of the Whole; on November 7, the entire Council will decide whether to approve Mayor Bowser’s bill amending the law that governs homeless services and housing programs in Washington, DC.

On October 18th, the Committee on Human Services, led by Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, passed the bill out of Committee, with only Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White, Sr. voting “no.” Some members of the Committee worked hard to make the HSRA bill less threatening to those experiencing homelessness in the District, but many concerning provisions remain in the bill. In the midst of DC’s affordable housing crisis, this bill broadly expands the Administration’s power to redefine homelessness, and will reduce the number of people who “count” as homeless without doing anything to meet their needs. In actuality, this bill will erode DC’s most vulnerable residents’ safety net of last-resort by restricting access to shelter and housing.

Members of the Committee on Human Services heard from hundreds of people like you about the importance of voting ‘no’ on a bill that would make it more difficult to access potentially life-saving services for those experiencing a housing crisis. It made a difference. All of those calls, emails, and social media posts helped make the bill less harmful, but it still isn’t where it needs to be. Please contact the DC Council and tell them to #VoteNoHSRABill!

If you participated in the last email action, thank you! Now, returning action-takers and first-timers can add their voices to tell the full DC Council to #VoteNoHSRABill, and spread the word! 

The Legal Clinic will host a community meeting to discuss the HSRA bill as it stands now, on Wednesday, November 1, 2017, from 12-2pm at The True Reformer Building – 1200 U Street NW, Washington, DC 2009. RSVP to info@legalclinic.org if you’d like to join us to learn more, and engage with community members and advocates!

As an update on where the bill stands, if it were to pass as it is now, the law authorizes these (and other) changes:

  • On freezing nights, homeless families could be turned away from shelter if they lack one of the bill’s required documents to prove residency—even if they are long-time District residents who lack documents for valid reasons such as fire or fleeing domestic violence.
  • People, including runaways and others who became homeless that day, may not have a right to shelter on freezing nights until they have already slept outside or in unsafe places.
  • Emergency Rental Assistance, a program which prevents low-income families in emergency situations from entering the homelessness system, will no longer be available for hundreds of people — because under this bill, qualifying for that help would require having a document that doesn’t exist in DC.
  • Families with kids with disabilities (but no adult with a disability) won’t qualify for permanent supportive housing anymore, even if they need intensive case management services to stay in housing
  • People exiting hospitals, jails, or other institutions after more than 180 days won’t be eligible for shelter or permanent supportive housing anymore.
  • People in transitional housing and rapid re-housing could be “exited” (lose the services) for no reason other than they’ve reached a set time limit – even if they will become homeless again right after they leave the program.
  • Emergency terminations or transfers—through which people are displaced before they can appeal the decision—could happen even when there is no immediate threat and for a much broader category of “offenses” than currently exists.
  • People could be terminated from any shelter or housing program if a provider learns any “new or relevant” information that impacts eligibility every 6 months – adding even more stress and uncertainty for families, and with no limit on what information the provider might think is “relevant.”