The bill is scheduled for mark-up by the Committee on Human Services on September 20. Now is the time for the Council to act to improve this program and ensure that all families in DC have a safe, stable place to call home.
This proposed provision puts particularly vulnerable families at higher risk. Many groups recommend removing this section entirely.
The root causes of homelessness cannot be solved by narrowing the front door to shelter, or by imposing arbitrary time limits on housing.
Yesterday, DC Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Committee on Transportation and the Environment held a joint hearing on Bill B21-0736, “Improving Access to Identity Documents Amendment Act of 2016.” The Bill was introduced by Councilmembers Grosso and Alexander in an effort to tackle one of the many obstacles that low-income DC residents face when trying to obtain necessary government IDs. If enacted, the bill would waive fees associated with obtaining vital records, IDs, and driver’s licenses for DC residents whose income falls under 200% of the federal poverty guidelines.
We’ve shared our thoughts on the Mayor’s proposal (B21-352) to lower the standard for DC General replacement units from apartment style to private rooms, emphasizing that the law must provide families an assurance of private bathrooms, food storage, and access to cooking equipment. Yesterday, we shared the input of 53 homeless families on what, based on their lived experiences, is critical for parents and children living in shelter—the majority of these families said private bathrooms and the ability to store and cook food were necessary even for stays as short as under three months. Even the Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH), at the behest of the Mayor, released a report concluding that the Mayor should “maximize private bathroom space however possible without delaying closing of DC General” and also provide food storage and some ability to cook.
If we all agree that the best policy is to provide these features in shelter, why are we still debating the Mayor’s bill?
The District’s budget is its biggest annual statement of priorities, and our experience shows us that elected officials usually come to the table with very little agreement over which competing priorities should be paramount. But this year, both Mayor Bowser and the DC Council agreed that the District’s severe affordable housing shortage and its equally severe, and related, homelessness crisis required an unprecedented joint effort. We are pleased to say that the FY 2016 DC Budget that unanimously passed its first vote of the DC Council yesterday takes DC a step closer to ending chronic homelessness and family homelessness by investing in a range of proven affordable housing strategies and homeless services. In particular, the budget fully funds the first year of the Interagency Council on Homelessness’ strategic plan to end homelessness (“Homeward DC”). It also supports low-income families in other important ways, acknowledging that homelessness cannot be ended if other safety net supports are not maintained. In its vote yesterday, the DC Council maintained, without cuts, the following increases in funding initiated by Mayor Bowser: Funding to begin replacing some of our largest, most institutional shelters with smaller, more humane shelters; Funding to increase the number of people whose homelessness will be ended by rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing and targeted affordable housing; Funding to bring the balance of the Housing Production Trust Fund (the major source of funding for construction and renovation of affordable housing in DC) to at least $100 million in 2016. Funding to “right size” the homeless services budget, meaning fewer service cuts during the warmer months; and Funding to give a one year reprieve to the more than 13,000 children slated to see all of their families’ cash benefits (TANF) cut in FY 2016. In addition, the DC Council’s changes to the budget enhanced efforts to end homelessness in the following ways: $5 million increase to house 333 additional homeless families on the DCHA waiting list via Local Rent Supplement Program (“LRSP”) vouchers; $2.3 million to increase the Mayor’s investment in Targeted Affordable Housing vouchers to serve 188 additional homeless men and women; $1.8 million to increase the Mayor’s investment in Permanent Supportive Housing (“PSH”) for 115 additional chronically homeless individuals; $500,000 increase to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (“ERAP”) to prevent evictions and to end homelessness for those in need of first month’s rent or a security deposit; $144,000 for increased funding for domestic violence shelter and services; and $500,000 to fund a pilot project for services and shelter beds for parenting minors. The FY 16 budget is the first crucial step to ending homelessness in the District, an outcome that can only be achieved by an enduring commitment from all stakeholders...