The DC Council is in the final stretch of making decisions about what DC’s spending priorities should be in the upcoming year. So far, District spending priorities do not reflect a deep commitment to truly affordable housing. There is not one dollar to provide vouchers directly to any of the 40,000 households on the DC Housing Authority waitlist, for the second year in a row. There are nowhere near enough affordable housing subsidies to end chronic homelessness or make significant dents in family homelessness, for the second year in a row.
Next week, after all decisions about the next year’s budget are finalized, elected leaders will turn to talking about the Mayor’s proposal to change the law governing shelters and some housing programs (the Homeless Services Reform Act). They’ll talk about how open or closed DC borders should be with its shelter resources, how strictly time limits in rapid re-housing should be enforced, who should qualify as homeless, who should qualify for permanent supportive housing, who can be terminated from shelter or housing for “no longer being eligible,” and more.
The Mayor may say that the parts of her proposal that may make it harder for people to access or maintain shelter and housing are a necessary response to DC’s daunting homelessness crisis, or are necessary to prioritize serving those “most in need” with the District’s finite resources. That is a false narrative. Resources are as “finite” as they are by choice of elected leaders. DC is spending millions on a streetcar that barely moves faster than you could walk. DC is also poised to give tax breaks to the heirs of millionaires and billionaire corporations—in fact, 2666 families could have vouchers if we rolled back these tax cuts, clearing out the entire shelter system and rapid re-housing in one fell swoop. District government is not suffering from a scarcity of resources needed to address these issues; it is suffering from a lack of political will. People experiencing homelessness will suffer the consequences for this lack of political will, first by not having any access to affordable housing and then, potentially, by having reduced access to emergency shelters.
The political will demonstrated by the Mayor and DC Council must reflect that of the people. It is our job to demand a just, humane response to homelessness in DC, and you play a critical role in making that happen.
- Spend some time this Memorial Day weekend tweeting and emailing your DC Council representatives. Tell your elected leaders (see infographic with contact info below) that the solution to homelessness is affordable housing, not restricting access to shelter. Tell them that there is plenty of money if there is political will, and that you choose funding affordable housing over tax cuts for the heirs of millionaires and billionaire corporations.
- Join us the morning of May 30 for a final push right before the DC Council votes on the FY2018 budget. We’ll meet at 9AM next Tuesday morning in the lobby of 1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW.
- Come to a community meeting to learn more about the proposed changes to the Homeless Services Reform Act on Friday, June 9, 2017, 11am to 2pm, at 1200 U Street NW. Please RSVP to 202-328-5500 or email@example.com so we can make sure we have enough food.
- Testify at the DC Council hearing on the proposed legal changes on Wednesday, June 14, 10am, Room 412, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW. Sign up by the end of the day on June 12 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (202) 724-8170.
- Continue to check legalclinic.org or follow us on Twitter (@washlegalclinic) for updates.