DC General Closing Plan Won’t Shelter All Homeless Families at Risk of Harm

November 13, 2014

I’ve been feeling I should say something about the Gray administration’s plan for closing the DC family shelter ever since it saw the light of day a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t because I’ve had trouble getting my mind around it.

Not altogether my fault. The plan, you see, isn’t really a plan. It’s more like a working paper — or a statement of preferences perhaps. These are certainly clear enough. But whether the next administration can translate them into a reality is at the very least questionable.

And in a couple of respects, I hope it doesn’t. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here are the major issues, as I see them.

Should DC General Be Closed?

A rhetorical question. No one, I venture to say, thinks that DC General is an okay place for children and their parents to live, even temporarily. It’s too big — a “small city” Councilmember Graham called it.

It was never fully converted from the hospital it used to be — apparently because no one wanted to acknowledge that it was the replacement for the then-notorious shelter the former mayor felt pressed to close in 2007.

Its basic systems are seemingly beyond redemption — frequent heat and air conditioning outages, no hot water for long periods of time, elevators that break down — or in one recent case, get flooded. And the place is persistently infested by mice, roaches, bed bugs and the like. Moldy too.

In short, it’s shameful that a child would have to go missing to get District officials serious about closing DC General.

Where Would the District Shelter Homeless Families?

The Gray administration envisions smaller shelters scattered across the city. They would have to include play spaces for children and be near to public transportation and “community amenities [undefined].”

The administration would prefer buildings leased from private landlords because, it says, this option would be quicker and cheaper than renovating publicly-owned buildings or constructing shelters on publicly-owned land.

The latter would also require the District to pay for ongoing operating costs, e.g., utilities, maintenance. The preferred option would make private landlords responsible for these, as well as security systems, furniture and whatever renovations their buildings require.

Ideally, each building would have 40-50 units, though the plan allows as how some larger shelters might be okay. For the smaller shelters, it projects a $2,000 per month cost.

Now, why would an owner of a potentially suitable building in any of our high-rent, high-demand neighborhoods agree to lease it for a minimum of 10 years at a rate this low — or anything close?

And if one did, wouldn’t the NIMBY (not in my backyard) forces “come out of the woodwork,” as the Director of the General Services Department has predicted? One recalls what happened when the District considered putting a smaller shelter in soon-to-be Mayor Bowser’s ward.

So, says Aaron Wiener at Washington City Paper, the “available candidates” will instead probably be “boarded-up properties” in low-income neighborhoods on “the city’s margins” — far less convenient to public transportation and “amenities” than DC General.

What Would a Unit Be?

Well, I’ll tell you what it wouldn’t necessarily be — an “apartment-style” unit, which the District’s homeless services law requires for families, except when no such unit is available.

The Gray administration interprets this limited exemption to mean that shelter units the District has yet to lease or build don’t have to include a bathroom for each family or any place to prepare a meal. They apparently may be just a single room, where parents and children must sleep together — just as they must at DC General.

How Many Homeless Families Would Have Shelter?

The Gray administration wants the replacement shelters to have, in total, the number of units currently provided at DC General — and to close the shelter in one fell swoop “so as to avoid an unplanned shelter expansion.”

It’s not altogether clear how many replacement units there’d be, since the Department of Human Services has concluded that 40 or so units at DC General don’t meet the (minimal) criteria the court established when it ordered the agency to stop “sheltering” families in recreation centers.

What is clear is that there won’t be nearly enough replacement units unless the number of families needing shelter miraculously plummets — or the homeless prevention and rapid exit strategies the Winter Plan promises miraculously work much better than they’ve done to date.

The plan isn’t short on units because providing enough to meet the need would cost more than the District could afford. It’s “a clear philosophical stance,” says the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services.

And it’s based on a truly appalling ignorance — or worse — of what happens to homeless families when the District won’t provide them a safe place to stay. Senior policy advisor Sakina Thompson, who wanted even fewer units, says, “During the summertime, when shelter is not available, families find other means.”

Indeed, they do. They walk the streets looking for someone to take them in for awhile. They sleep in cars, if they have them, or at bus stops or on a church floor. They take refuge in a laundromat. Some presumably return to the abusers they’ve fled.

Whatever “other means” they find, they’re likely to have more and/or worse problems when the District must finally shelter them than they had when they become homeless.

Not so long ago, the District provided shelter year round to families who’d otherwise have no safe place to stay.

Mayor Bowser and the DC Council will have to decide whether to move forward with a plan that would intentionally replicate the crises that Gray and his people have used to justify barring the shelter doors, except when it’s freezing outside.

I’m hoping for a more compassionate — and policy-smart — philosophical stance.


DC General Family Shelter in Councilmember’s Bull’s-Eye

May 5, 2014

One of those interminable hearings on the proposed budget for the District of Columbia’s Department of Human Services. A list of 81 witnesses, not counting DHS Director David Berns, whose testimony was deferred.

Many issues teed up — most, though not all related to homeless services. No way to wrap them up in a blog post. One, however, raised a new red flag.

Councilmember Jim Graham, who chairs the Human Services Committee, insisted that DC General, the main shelter for homeless families, be closed by year’s end.

He wants to force the District to “marshal the will … and the resources” by putting a mandate to this effect in the Budget Support Act, as Aaron Wiener at Washington City Paper reports.

Graham returned to this notion over and over again — and attempted (unsuccessfully) to garner advocates’ support.

His lead-off witness put a plank in the platform with observations and some survey results — all confirming that DC General is an awful place. Hot water only some of the time, rats, roaches and, as one current resident testified, bedbugs that caused her daughter’s face to swell up with infection.

It’s “a dead building,” Graham said, quoting past testimony by Berns. No point then in putting any money into making it somewhat more habitable.

And even if it were, it would still be an out-sized facility — “a small city” of homeless families, each with only a single room to live in.

No one, so far as I know, believes that DC General is a perfectly okay place to shelter homeless families when they’d otherwise have no safe place to stay. Some doubts, in fact, as to whether it is safe — raised most recently by the disappearance of eight-year-old Relisha Rudd.

The issue is rather whether the District should close DC General before it can open enough more suitable shelter units to meet the need. Graham clearly believes this is the only way to ensure it will ever open them.

He cites the Mayor’s initiative to rapidly re-house 500 homeless families by mid-July. That, he says, would leave only about 100 families in DC General.

So there’d be vacant units — assuming, as he apparently does, that the initiative succeeds and accepting, as he does, the Mayor’s intent to keep them vacant for as long as he can. They’d still eventually be filled, Graham foresees, unless the shelter is shut down.

What to do then with the 100 or more families — and the who knows how many who will seek shelter as soon as the weather turns cold enough to trigger their legal right to protection from exposure to “severe weather conditions?”

Graham would temporarily shelter them in hotels, using money saved by not operating DC General.

This is wholly contrary to the approach DHS plans to take. Berns, recall, believes that homeless families left doubled-up situations once they knew they’d be put up in a hotel, instead of DC General.

It’s also quite different from the approach envisioned in the “roadmap” that 20 leading advocacy and service provider organizations released the day of the hearing.

This is the second time this year that advocates and service providers have felt compelled to take matters into their own hands because the Gray administration either won’t or can’t develop and carry out a plan to ensure that all homeless D.C. families have a safe, decent place to stay — and sufficient help to make their time there brief.

Or both. On the won’t side, we can look at the Mayor’s proposed budget, which would effectively cut homeless family services by $11 million — 20% of what DHS has this year.

The first coalition effort was a multi-part strategy to address the immediate family shelter crisis. The “roadmap” is a more evolved version — goals, sub-goals and new cost estimates to move the District toward a significantly improved homeless family system.

That, of course, will include something other than DC General — apartment-style units in smaller buildings, scattered in different parts of the city. The coalition expects the overhaul to take several years, however, and so focuses on improved casework and other services for families who’ll be at DC General.

Not so many there perhaps — or any for so long, if other goals are met. But there will be “safe and adequate emergency shelter for families when they need it” — whatever the outdoor temperature.

Pressed to endorse immediate closure, Judith Sandalow, who heads the Children’s Law Project, demurred because “we haven’t seen a plan that will keep families safe.”

Marta Berensin at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless was understandably unwilling to rely on “all the big ifs.” She envisions a process in which units at DC General will be closed as they’re replaced.

A crisis-creating measure like what Graham wants could set off a repeat of the “draconian measures” DHS resorted to this winter, she warned. These measures would mean shelter for families only on freezing-cold days and no shelter during the next severe cold snap unless they went through the whole application process all over again.

One can understand Graham’s impatience. DC General was initially supposed to be an interim solution. There’s been talk about closing it for some time. Yet the Mayor only very recently directed Berns and the Deputy Mayor for Human Services to develop a closure plan.

We’ve no reason to believe that the District can establish alternative shelters for hundreds of homeless families by year’s end — or that it will pick up the costs of hotel rooms for them whenever they’ve no safe place to stay.

We do have reasons to believe that some of those families will be boomeranging back because they can’t pay rent when their rapid re-housing subsidies expire.

So I can’t help wondering if Graham, who’ll be leaving the Council shortly, wants to make a bit of history, knowing he won’t have to deal with the fallout — or perhaps just go out swinging.

UPDATE: The DC Fiscal Policy Institute now has a petition asking Councilmembers to fund the reforms recommended in the roadmap. It’s a quick and easy way for those of you who live in the District to support sorely needed improvements in the homeless family system.



Dreaming of a Freezing Cold Christmas

December 22, 2012

Jesse, my husband, hopes for a white Christmas, as he always does. I, a California child, like the Christmas card prettiness of a fresh snowfall. But I hate cold weather. Always have.

I find myself hoping for another cold snap nonetheless — preferably with snow, for my husband’s sake, but without if that’s the best the weather gods can do.

Because unless the forecast calls for freezing temperatures — 32 degrees or less, including wind chill factor — some homeless families in the District of Columbia may have no safe place to bed down tomorrow night.

Nor any night thereafter until we get that arctic blast.

Time was not so long ago when the District’s shelter doors were always open to families who’d otherwise have no safe place to stay, i.e., those the intake system ranked as Priority One.

Then came a significant increase in family homelessness — an acute symptom of recession-related job losses, stagnant (or reduced) wages for those still working and rising rental costs.

What didn’t come were increases in funding for housing vouchers beyond what was needed to pay for those already in use.

So once homeless families were admitted to DC General — the main shelter for them — they tended to stay there longer than they had in the past.

A whole series of failures to fully come to grips with this problem.

Insufficient funding — both local and federal — to support services for the growing number of homeless families.

Formal plans for sheltering homeless families during the winter season that attempted to make everything look okay, funding constraints notwithstanding.

Large costs incurred for motel rooms and related needs because the plans really weren’t okay.

A sharp drop in funds to support the development and preservation of affordable housing. First, because the designated revenue stream shrank when the real estate market went south.

Then because the Mayor, with the Council’s consent, tapped the recovering revenue stream to cover the costs of locally-funded housing vouchers. But only those already issued.

For homeless families, the District had some Recovery Act funds for short-term housing vouchers. But for a variety of reasons, including the terms, they proved only a limited substitute.

So, at some point, the Family Services Administration, which administers the District’s homeless services program, changed the policy for Priority One families.

Henceforward, they’d gain shelter only when they were legally entitled to it, i.e., when the effective temperature was expected to drop to 32 degrees before the following morning.

Now, I’m told, it will also shelter them in less frigid weather if there’s room for them at DC General. Midweek, units were filling up fast. So I don’t know whether any will be vacant by the time you read this.

Jesse and I don’t see homeless families when we take our pre-dinner strolls around the neighborhood. I doubt residents in most other parts of the District do either.

The families are scattered in the safest, warmest places they can find — in their cars, if they’re fortunate enough to have them, in hospital waiting rooms, bus stations, stairwells, etc.

So they probably don’t weigh heavy on our consciences as we prepare to celebrate the birthday of someone whose mother was given shelter when there was no room at the inn.

But I think of them now and hope the forecast for the upcoming week is wrong.

DC Bars Shelter Doors to Families With No Safe Place to Stay

September 10, 2012

The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless shares another outrageous story — a classic example of the needless hardships homeless families endure because the Gray administration has decided to retreat to what it views as its minimum legal obligations.

Hence we’ve got a mother and five children spending their nights in a bus station, though there’s plenty of room for them at DC General — the main local shelter for homeless families.

They wash up in the morning at a nearby McDonald’s. Heaven knows how the children do their homework.

You’d think the Gray administration would worry about this. The Mayor, after all, has made a big deal of his plans to ensure “high-quality educational outcomes for [the] District’s children.”

But the Department of Human Services is shy $7 million. And it’s bound and determined to make the Winter Plan work — within or under budget if it can.

As I earlier wrote, the plan calls for leaving 118 units at DC General vacant unless and until DHS would otherwise have to place families in costly motel rooms, as it did last winter. So families can’t get in now, even though there are reportedly about 100 units vacant.

This is not, I think, what the DC Council intended.

The Budget Support Act — the package of legislation that’s paired with the actual appropriations bill — includes specific instructions for what DHS is to do before the winter season officially begins.

It says that DHS “shall ensure” that at least 100 families in hotels, motels, shelters and/or transitional housing are in “apartment-style housing units” by September 30.

But that’s not all the BSA tells DHS to do. “Once there are vacancies in temporary shelters, severe-weather shelters, or transitional housing,” it says, “the Department [DHS] shall use all available resources currently budgeted for homeless families to place new family-shelter applicants who cannot access other housing arrangements … into shelters or housing.”

DHS reportedly contends that it’s currently budgeted for only 153 units at DC General — those that it designates for regular use in the Winter Plan. How it could have been funding 271 units at the time the BSA passed is a mystery, at least to me.

But this is all legalistic niggling. DHS wants those 118 units vacant. They won’t be if it allows homeless families like the Legal Clinic’s client to move from the bus station to DC General now.

So, as things stand now, families who’ve got no safe place to stay have to wait for shelter till the first freezing cold day.

As if hypothermia is the only thing that can harm them. As if the top priority for homeless services is avoiding a lawsuit — or a funding shortfall that the Mayor and Council could remedy, if they chose to.

The Legal Clinic urges us to tell that Mayor that homeless families need shelter — or even better, stable housing — now.

His e-mail address is mayor@dc.gov. And his Twitter handle @mayorvincegray.

UPDATE: The Fair Budget Coalition now has an editable letter we can useĀ  to send to the Mayor and key decision-makers in his administration. As it says, there are not only vacant units at DC General, but about 65 unused, fully-funded housing vouchers that could go to homeless families.

Right To Shelter In DC Dies On Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day

December 22, 2010

Yesterday, the shortest day of the year, marked the 20th annual National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day.

Around the country and here in Washington, D.C., public officials, advocates, service providers, homeless people and other community members gathered to commemorate men and women who died while homeless during this hard year.

Let’s also pause to mourn the death of major protections formerly provided by the District’s Homeless Services Reform Act. Because, in an unwitting irony, the DC Council yesterday passed Councilmember Tommy Wells’s amendment to the act for the second time.

This virtually ensures that restrictions which expose homeless people in the District to greater — even life-threatening — risks will become law. And Councilmembers were well aware of the impacts.

Opponents warned that the amendment will be “cruel” to District residents, that we’ll be putting homeless people “who arrive at our doorsteps” out into the cold, that we’ll be “dumbing down” standards for family shelter accommodations.

Reminded their colleagues of someone homeless whose birthday we’re about to celebrate.

All over-ridden by self-congratulatory explanations that homeless people have been flocking here because we’re such a “liberal” jurisdiction.

By recurrent references to the prospective funding shortfall and a potential “over-concentration of facilities” in Ward 4 — a fine justification for letting families freeze if there ever was one.

Plus an assurance that the bill won’t take effect until mid-March, so there’s no danger of “immediate harm” — as if that’s the only kind we should worry about.

“These are difficult times we find ourselves in,” says Council Chairman Vincent Gray as a wrap-up. More difficult than someone comfortably housed can imagine, I think.

Debate notwithstanding, positions were already set in stone. The amendment was a done deal before the vote was taken.

So now what?

Councilmember Wells informs his colleagues that DC General is full, that there’s a long line of families awaiting shelter and that the District “can’t even guarantee a private room” — the new minimum standard for family shelter units.

In other words, the District can’t comply with the weakened law. And there’s not a shred of evidence that the problematic proof-of-residency requirements (see here and here) will make much difference.

No difference at all to the homeless families that can’t get into DC General because the Council failed to ensure that the Department of Human Services could in fact cope with needs for shelter beyond the dubious projections in this year’s winter plan.

More About Changes In DC Homeless Services

December 19, 2010

As I recently wrote, Councilmember Tommy Wells made changes in his proposed amendment to the District’s Homeless Services Reform Act before the Committee on Human Services and then the full DC Council approved it.

I’ve already tried to account for changes related to eligibility for shelter. Here are the other big changes I see.

Families can’t be sheltered in barracks-style facilities. Like the original version of the bill, the final allows the District to place families in non-apartment style shelter units during severe weather conditions if no apartment-style units are available.

However, the final version says that families must be given private rooms. This seems to address some of the most urgent health and safety concerns about eliminating the apartment-style housing requirement.

Or maybe not. Washington City Paper reporter Jason Cherkis acutely notes that it doesn’t say that each family must have its own room. On the other hand, the Homeless Services Reform Act doesn’t say that each family must have its own apartment-style unit either. I doubt we’d have the outcry now if it weren’t understood that way.

However interpreted, the provision clearly relieves the District from any obligation to move toward more suitable shelters for families. Professor Matt Fraidin’s testimony about conditions at DC General should give one pause.

I’m thinking here particularly about conditions that can’t be remedied by improving maintenance and investing in some modest remodeling, e.g., refrigerators that all parents can use 24/7.

Such upgrades would still leave children with no quiet place to do homework, no safe place to play, limited opportunity to socialize and exposure to a host of rules that undermine a healthy relationship with their parents.

As Fraidin recently told Cherkis, even a good communal shelter, which DC General isn’t, “is a bad place for kids” and will probably cost the District more in the long run than moving away from institutions like DC General.

Homeless people may, in some circumstances, receive other services without proving residency. The original version of the bill would have required proof of residency for all homeless services — even a blanket, a warm drink or a lift to a shelter to ward off hypothermia.

The final version of the bill allows the mayor to exclude certain homeless services, provided he publishes a notice identifying them. This could ultimately take care of the ban on crisis services.

Till then, it seems that, as the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless has said, the proof of residency requirement is “akin to requiring an ID before administering life-saving medical emergency services.”

Methods of proving residency have been expanded. In the original version of the bill, only someone who lived in the District — and could present the requisite proof — could verify the residency of a homeless person who couldn’t present other acceptable evidence.

The final version includes someone who is not a District resident, but works for a service provider in the District. But only if he/she produces evidence of such employment.

No indication of what evidence would qualify. So we don’t know whether an employee could satisfy the requirement without setting aside services to other clients to take an ID or whatever to a shelter or the Virginia Williams intake center for families.

The final version of the bill also either expands or clarifies another proof of residency option. Now someone may “demonstrate” residency by “reporting a mailing address in the District, valid within the last two years.”

That could certainly take care of documentation problems that service providers and advocates have raised. But are we to understand that this will be a trust, don’t verify situation? If it is, then what’s the point of the other residency proof provisions? If it isn’t, then the problems seem as great as ever.

Bottom line. Councilmember Wells seems to have made an effort to address some of the concerns that services providers and advocates raised. But, as the old saying goes, you can’t make a silk’s purse out of a sow’s ear.

The law is going to be a deuce to administer — mainly because Wells would only tinker at the margins. And it’s still going to put our most vulnerable residents at even greater risk of harm.

All because of some fragmentary evidence that some non-resident families might have been given shelter in one of the soon-to-be-legal single rooms at the warehouse the District now has less incentive to remodel or replace.

NOTE: The Legal Clinic reminds us that the final vote on the amendment is this Tuesday, December 21. It urges us to e-mail or call our Councilmembers and ask them to vote “no.” E-mail addresses and phone numbers are at the end of its action alert.

Big Takeaways From The Homeless Services Reform Act Hearing

November 14, 2010

Last week, the DC Council Committee on Human Services held a hearing on Councilmember Wells’s bill to amend the Homeless Services Reform Act.

One of the those very, very long hearings. Many witnesses. A good bit of back and forth, with Wells seemingly seeking a way to move his bill forward. Here are my biggest takeaways.

Councilmember Wells feels he’s between the rock and the hard place. He’s staring at a current $175 million budget gap — maybe as big as $400 million for the upcoming fiscal year.

He knows there will be cuts in the programs his committee oversees, even if his colleagues join him in supporting a tax increase.

At the same time, he knows that pressures on homeless services will remain at least as high as they are now. Also apparently expects the homeless services budget will be targeted in part because it’s mostly local funds.

So Wells thinks we need to “ration resources,” which, in this case, means ensuring that local dollars are spent only on homeless services for District residents. The only alternative he sees is eliminating some services, e.g., meals for people in shelters during dangerously cold weather.

However, the major costs he repeatedly referred to arise when individuals or families are placed in permanent supportive housing. No homeless person gains overnight access to PSH. So a reasonably flexible process of verifying residency might be possible here. But Wells seemed unwilling to entertain an alternative like this.

Would ensuring that only District residents get PSH placements free up funds for other homeless services? Carter said that PSH funding consisted of housing vouchers and the earmark in the District’s federal appropriation. So the answer is apparently no.

Seems that there’s either a confusion of concerns or a felt need to grab onto any possible justifications for the proposal.

We see this also in the way Wells characterized the scant data available, e.g., his harping on the fact that the number of putatively non-resident families who’d applied for help at the Virginia Williams Family Resource Center had tripled. The tripling here is from 2% to 6%. And, of course, applying doesn’t mean getting.

The bill is fraught with unintended consequences. Carter seemed appalled by the notion that blankets or other crisis services couldn’t be provided to people on the streets in freezing weather unless they could document residency.

He said the Wells bill couldn’t be interpreted that way. Councilmember Michael Brown said it could. The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless thinks so too. So at the very least, we’ve got a critical — and possibly life-threatening — ambiguity.

Carter also said it was “essential” that no documentation be required for people seeking entry to a low-barrier shelter. This, I assume, on the understanding that individuals who’ve been out on the streets or moving from shelter to shelter often don’t have any of the specified proofs of residency or a ready way to get one.

Yet, as I read the bill, the low-barrier exemption applies only in severe weather conditions. And, as the Legal Clinic said again in its testimony, documentation apparently would be required even then for access to the additional space that’s added to some low-barrier shelters during the winter season.

Similarly, Carter said that the exemption for domestic violence victims shouldn’t apply only during hypothermia alerts. However, the exemption for them along with victims of spousal abuse and human trafficking also seems to apply only in such times.

Even then, they’d have to identify themselves as victims. And as a witness from the District Alliance for Safe Housing pointed out, there’d be no assurance that their whereabouts would be kept confidential.

Looks to me like either sloppy drafting or some serious differences of opinion between the Councilmember and the agency head who’d have to implement the bill.

The bill runs counter to Councilmember Wells’s own concerns. As Wells has repeatedly observed, DC General is “an awful place for children.” Testimony by Matt Fraidin, a law professor at UDC and visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center, amply confirmed this with results from interviews conducted there this summer.

Yet the bill would eliminate a key control on the conditions in which families are housed. As Wells said at the hearing, the District has never been able to comply with the requirement that they be placed in apartment-style units.

But if he objects to DC General, why would he allow the District to place families in barracks-type facilities not only during severe weather emergencies, but indefinitely?

There are problems that have to be addressed. Councilmember Wells is right in saying that the District can’t become the provider “of last resort” for homeless people who can’t get help from their own local agencies. We’ve got a regional problem, but no mechanism to ensure shared responsibility.

He right that we need to do what we can to conserve resources for District residents — not only because we’ve none to spare, but because, as he observed, District taxpayers will be outraged if they learn that local funds are supporting people who’ve come here to benefit from our relatively compassionate system.

A key question is whether we can reserve emergency shelter space for residents without excluding the neediest and most vulnerable. Wells repeatedly challenged advocates to say whether his proposal was infeasible or unwarranted. The consensus seemed to be both, but stronger for the former.

Wells is also right to “feel panicked” about what will happen this winter. DC General is still full, as are transitional housing units. DHS plans to place 150 families in permanent supportive housing within the next 10 months.

But what’s it going to do about homeless families right now? Sending some relatively small number of them back where they came from isn’t going to ensure enough shelter space for our very own, even if they could prove they’re current residents.

And Carter’s right when he says that “shelter has become the de facto housing system” in the District. The enormous pressures his department is facing come mainly from the growing dearth of affordable housing. Seems that cutbacks there have been truly a pennywise solution.

Wells unfortunately seems to feel that he’s got to work within the framework he’s constructed. “Starting back at zero,” he says, “is not what the Council gets to do.” I’m not clear why it doesn’t. But I’m glad he seems open to suggestions. We may see how open when the Human Services Committee tackles the language of the bill on Wednesday.


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