Oversight Roundtable on Winter Plan

Posted on Oct 20, 2011 in Homelessness, Hypothermia | 1 comment

Today, starting at 2pm, the District of Columbia Council’s Committee on Human Services is conducting a roundtable to discuss the Department of Human Services’ plan to protect the lives of people who are homeless this winter. Below is the testimony that will be delivered by Legal Clinic Staff Attorney Amber W. Harding. Council of the District of Columbia Committee of Human Services Hypothermia Roundtable Thursday, October 20, 2011 Testimony of Amber W. Harding, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless It has long been the stated policy and law of DC to provide emergency shelter to each and every person experiencing homelessness when the temperature outside falls below freezing. As the Winter Plan reminds us, exposure to wet and cold conditions can cause hypothermia, which is a life-threatening condition. Unfortunately, for far too many years, DC has failed to administer this right to shelter equally and justly when it comes to DC families, placing their lives at risk and violating their constitutional and statutory rights. Today I am going to summarize some of the patterns we saw last year, patterns that we believe will persist unless DHS takes strong preventative steps. These patterns are based on cases our office handled last year, and I can provide specifics if necessary. I also have 7 specific recommendations for DHS. For individuals, the Winter Plan presumes that there will be nights that all the regular beds will be filled. DC is prepared to bring overflow beds online as needed. There is no overflow commitment in the Plan for families, despite the fact that DC General fills up every year. While DHS has verbally committed to place families in hotels or motels if DC General fills up, it has not shared how quickly the hotels will be brought online or how food, case management and transportation will be provided to these families. DC endeavors to reach out to every individual staying on the street to make sure he is encouraged (or even coerced) to come into shelter when the temperature dips below 32. There are outreach agencies tasked with finding those folks and getting them in, and there is a public education campaign encouraging DC residents to call the Hypothermia Hotline to pick up any adults they see needing shelter. No similar outreach or public education campaign exists for families—not even through the centralized intake center, much less through the schools their children may attend or hospitals where they may be found sleeping in the lobbies. Families that seek shelter are often discouraged from applying and entering shelter at every step along the way. This occurs despite the fact that families are staying in many inappropriate or life-threatening environments—in their cars, at bus stops,...

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Alert: Vote on Winter Plan for Hypothermia Season Will Be On 10/26

Posted on Oct 25, 2010 in Homelessness, Hypothermia | 0 comments

The DC Interagency Council on Homelessness is holding a special meeting on Tuesday, October 26th at 9:30am, to vote on the Winter Plan for the upcoming hypothermia season. The meeting will be held at MPD Regional Operations Command (ROC) 801 Shepherd St NW. With regard to meeting the needs of families this winter, the current version of the Plan relies upon outplacing families into housing at a quick enough pace to free up capacity in the shelters. Already the District has been unable to keep up the anticipated pace, and there is no back-up plan identified. We urge concerned community members to attend the ICH...

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Hypothermia: Believe it or Not, it’s Just Around the Corner!

Posted on Aug 17, 2010 in Homelessness, Hypothermia, Shelter | 0 comments

By Patty Mullahy Fugere, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless Executive Director As we trudge through these dog days of summer, it’s hard to imagine the mercury dropping below 80 for more than a twelve hour stretch at a time. Yet the calendar tells us that’s just around the corner…and so, too, do the preparations of DC’s Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) for hypothermia season 2010-2011. This past winter will forever be memorable on a number of accounts: record snowfall; record school and government closures; record sales of Bengay for muscles aching from endless shoveling. Yet some of the most vivid memories for us are more akin to Haiti after the earthquake or New Orleans after Katrina: family after family stuffed into common areas, bunking down in hallways, doubled up with strangers. Last winter, the official shelter census, day-in and day-out, showed a system at, and often stretched well beyond, capacity. The worst offenses were at DC General Hospital Hypothermia Shelter for Families, where at one point 200 families were sheltered in space meant to accommodate only 135. This is a situation no one cares to repeat in the months ahead. Under threat of litigation, DC’s Department of Human Services (DHS) eased the overcrowding at the end of last winter by moving families into transitional or permanent housing on an expedited basis. It has housed some additional families since that time, and plans to provide a stable home for even more parents and kids with new funding that should be available soon. It has been deeply involved in the ICH’s preparation of a Winter Plan for 2010 – 2011,  (Read Winter Plan Draft Here!) which by law must set forth the steps the local government will take and the resources it will make available to meet its obligation to shelter any homeless family or individual who seeks it during severe weather. What does the draft Plan propose for the upcoming frigid weather? The draft presently being circulated provides for a ten percent increase in the number of beds available for individual men and women and a thirty percent increase in the number of units available for families. At this point, though, it lacks specificity with regard to some of its most important elements. The ICH Operations and Logistics Committee will hold a public vetting of the plan on Thursday, August 19th (9:30 a.m. at N Street Village, 1333 N Street, NW), to get community input before finalizing the draft Winter Plan for presentation to the full ICH for approval in mid-September. All interested persons are welcome to attend. Does the draft Plan go far enough to avoid a repeat of the pain and hardship endured by far too many...

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