Councilmember Jim Graham (Ward One, Chair of Committee on Human Services) held a press conference on Monday outside the DC General family shelter to announce that he had found an extra $14 million in the 2012 budget of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, and to demand that the Mayor use as much of that surplus as needed to help homeless families who are being denied emergency shelter by the District until winter.

“There are beds in this building [DC General] that could be used to house homeless families,” he said. “The simple truth of the matter is that there are people who are in bus shelters, at Union Station, wandering the city going from couch to couch with their kids who could be here.”

“Today we know that the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services has now a $14 million unspent surplus,” he continued. “I am now calling upon the Mayor to commit funds from the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services to the Department of Human Services so we can fully open this facility again.”

Councilmember Michael Brown also attended the press conference to express his support for opening DC General family shelter right away to families that currently have no place to sleep, and using unspent money from the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services to pay for any associated costs.

Following Councilmembers Graham and Brown, several mothers spoke about their struggles to find a place to stay every day. One mother talked about staying in a park in Southeast and not knowing what to tell her children each day about where they were going to sleep or how they were going to wash up for school each morning. Another mother spoke about feeling like she was going to give up because she had asked for help at Virginia Williams Family Resource Center so many times and no one was helping her. Several speakers were outraged that children are being placed at risk in the streets because Mayor Gray made the decision to keep the door to family shelter closed despite more than 100 open units at DC General. Others told stories of mothers being asked to exchange sex for a place to sleep when they are turned away from shelter.

We thank Councilmembers Graham and Brown for their concern for the families who are needlessly living in dire circumstances when plentiful resources are available, and for their helpfulness in identifying unused funds in the District’s budget that will allow the Gray Administration to serve families in crisis.

Stop with the excuses and do the right thing, Mayor Gray.

Click here to send a message to Mayor Gray asking him to start helping families today.  Later this week we will tell you the story of a mother of two kids who is sleeping in a park and needs less than two weeks of shelter before her housing comes through.