By Nassim Moshiree, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless Staff Attorney

Contact your Councilmember NOW and Ask Them to Vote “NO” on the “Homeless Services Reform Amendment Act of 2010.”

Background: Councilmember Wells plans to introduce as emergency a bill that will significantly change the District’s obligation to provide life saving emergency shelter.  The vote on this bill is scheduled to take place tomorrow morning, October 19, 2010 at 10:00am. There has been no community input.  At the very least, this should not be emergency legislation.

The Proposed Bill:

Requires verification of DC residency during emergency conditions that many DC residents will be unable to provide, thus risking the lives of DC residents Many homeless District residents cannot document residency on the day they apply for shelter, and getting documents can take days or even weeks.  Some applicants, such as domestic violence survivors or victims of a fire may not have access to the types of documents required in this bill.  Requiring documents from people who would otherwise sleep on the street and suffer from hypothermia is a barrier that could result in the deaths of DC residents this winter

    • The bill imposes a far stricter DC residency requirement on applicants seeking emergency life-saving severe weather shelter than any other public benefits program

Takes away health and safety protections for families in winter shelter by removing the requirement that families have “apartment-style” placements

    • Last year, 200 families were crammed into DC General, causing severe health and safety consequences to many families, including outbreaks of serious illnesses and sexual assaults.  The only thing that stopped the further expansion of DC General and major tragedies from occurring was the threat of a lawsuit against DC to enforce the current law’s requirement that family shelters meet these minimum health and safety requirements. This bill would legalize those unsafe communal environments that caused harm to so many families last winter.

This bill will have a fiscal impact in a time of major budget shortfalls but will have only a negative impact on DC residents in crisis

    • These new requirements will completely change shelter admissions procedures for individuals seeking shelter in hypothermia.  Training for shelter staff is already scheduled for this week—but if this bill passes, shelter and outreach workers will have to be completely retrained and new procedures will have to be implemented.  Since this process is more cumbersome, new staff will have to be hired to process intake—and the staff will have to be available 24 hours a day because people apply at all times of day.
    • This bill may so seriously impair the health and safety of DC residents this winter that legal challenges are inevitable, costing DC significant resources that could be better spent on providing actual lifesaving services to its residents

Please do your part today to help save DC Residents this winter and tell your Councilmember to vote no on this harmful measure:

Chair Vincent C. Gray,, 724-8032
At-large David Catania,, 724-7772
At-large Michael Brown,, 724-8105
At-large Phil Mendelson,, 724-8064
At-large Kwame R. Brown,, 724-8174
Ward 1 Jim Graham,, 724-8181
Ward 2 Jack Evans,, 724-8058
Ward 3 Mary Cheh,, 724-8062
Ward 4 Muriel Bowser,, 724-8052
Ward 5 Harry "Tommy" Thomas Jr.,, 724-8028
Ward 6 Tommy Wells,, 724-8072
Ward 7 Yvette Alexander,, 724-8068
Ward 8 Marion Barry,, 724-8045
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