Please call (311) or email ( the Mayor and ask him to protect DC families by vetoing this bill before he leaves office!

In a shockingly callous and short-sighted move, the DC Council passed the Homeless Services Reform Amendment Act of 2010 (B18-1059) at Tuesday’s legislative session, with Councilmembers Cheh, Graham, Mendelson, and Thomas strongly opposing the harmful measure.

B18-1059, introduced by Councilmember Tommy Wells, purports to prioritize DC residents for shelter services by requiring proof of DC residency before a family can access emergency shelter even during hypothermia season. In reality, the bill adds yet another bureaucratic hurdle in the middle of the coldest weather season for our most vulnerable residents, while doing nothing to prevent families from moving to DC from other jurisdictions to access our services.

We were grateful for the strong voices of reason from the dais by the only four Councilmembers who truly understood the consequences of this bad piece of legislation – that it does nothing to improve homeless services for DC residents, and that it is nothing short of a cruel bill that will leave children and families outside in freezing weather.

Although most of the rhetoric surrounding this bill has concerned the residency requirement provisions, this bill is far more expansive than its proponents would lead us to believe. The bill eviscerates the health and safety standards for family shelter by allowing the Mayor to place families in communal-style shelters rather than apartment-style shelters. We have overwhelming social science as well as experiential evidence that communal shelters are harmful to children – just look at the atrocities of last winter at DC General. By legalizing congregate shelter for families, the District will be backsliding to the nightmare days of DC Village, or worse. It is against good public policy to lower this standard because we’re not meeting it — we do not do the same for educational standards in our schools or clean water standards for our rivers –and yet, on Tuesday, the DC Council did just that while ignoring the deleterious effects to our homeless children.

Times have been tough for homeless residents much longer than they’ve been tough for the rest of us. The real problems our city is facing – a rise in family homelessness, soaring unemployment, inadequate shelter and affordable housing capacity and a budget deficit — none of these issues were addressed by this bill. It is unconscionable for us to risk the loss of even one life without the facts to back it up and a plan that truly addresses the problem.