I’m sick and tired of e-mails seeking funding or space to house homeless D.C. families. I’m not at all sick and tired of the outreach to help them. It’s a comfort to know that the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless is trying — and that local nonprofits are responding.
But I am sick and tired of the District’s failure to provide parents and their children with shelter when they’ve no place to spend the night. At least four cases in the last ten days, I’m told.
The latest e-mail tells of a woman with a two year-old child who’d lost her job and, as a result, her housing. She’d been staying with a friend who couldn’t help her any longer. So she went to the Virginia Williams intake center for homeless families.
That’s what homeless families in the District are supposed to do — and must do to get publicly-funded assistance. She was told there’d be no space in a shelter until maybe some time the following week. Period.
I recently sat in on a meeting of the Interagency Council for the Homeless committee that drafts the nuts-and-bolts of the District’s winter plan. Fred Swann, who heads the Department of Human Services’ Family Services Administration, proudly assured us that they were strictly observing the space limits at DC General.
No more over-crowding like what finally precipitated the devastating public exposure (and the threat of legal action) last winter. All very well and good.
But where’s the achievement when DHS is leaving parents and children to the tender mercies of the streets — or the compassion of local churches and other small, resource-constrained nonprofits?
We were told that the department has ramped up efforts to move families out of DC General into more suitable, stable housing. Again, well and good — both for them and for the families they’ll make room for. But it’s not doing a damned thing for the mothers and children who need a roof over their heads right now.
I acknowledge, as I have before, that DHS is strapped for funds. I’d feel better if some of its key people didn’t seem to be just shrugging their shoulders.
A whole lot better if Councilmember Jack Evans, chairman of the influential Finance and Revenue Committee, hadn’t already targeted the department for major budget cuts because “there’s no place else to go.” No place else but shelter or subsidized housing for homeless families either.