After I posted my account of how the District’s winter plan for homeless families evolved, I got an e-mail from Chapman Todd, who chairs the Operations & Logistics Committee. Chapman is a consultant on housing development and one of the advocate members of the Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Chapman informed me that I had misunderstood both the role of the Committee in the now-superseded proposal to add overflow spaces at DC General and what the Committee told the Department of Human Services about estimated need.
So to set the record straight …
#1. DHS did add the 100 overflow units at DC General in response to Committee concerns about potentially inadequate capacity for families. But it did so without consulting the Committee. Committee members in fact had previously recommended against any further expansion at DC General.
At an early point, DHS indicated that it had identified a smaller building elsewhere in the city that could be used to temporarily house families if DC General had no available units. This alternative subsequently dropped out of the evolving plan. Another member of the Committee has reported rumors that it fell victim to political pressures — a Councilmember representing her ”not in my backyard” constituents.
#2. The Committee estimated only additional spaces needed. It did not assume that DHS would be able to move 100 families out of DC General by November 1. Nor did it assume this would mean that 100 units would be available then. So the accurate estimate is 215 units, plus however many are occupied when the hypothermia season begins.
This clearly is an unknown. Hence concerns — mine among them — about whether DHS will in fact be able to accommodate all homeless families by adding to its stock of subsidized housing, while retaining only existing emergency shelter space.
I should add that my concerns are greater now because I’ve learned that DHS has distributed all the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing funds it received under the economic recovery act.
Some providers that received the funds have not yet exhausted their allocations. But the remaining funds will probably be needed to provide further assistance to families who are already depending on HPRRP for housing.
Funds could be totally exhausted before the end of the winter season. Which, of course, would mean more families in need of emergency shelter or other subsidized housing.
The DC Council Committee on Human Services held a hearing on the winter plan on Wednesday. Several witnesses, including members of the Interagency Council, said that DHS needed a back-up plan. Councilmember Tommy Wells, who chairs the committee, seemed to think so as well.
All that DHS Director Clarence Carter could say was that his agency would continue monitoring needs and “sound the alarm” if additional resources are needed.
Whether they’ll be forthcoming and, if so, how soon is an open question. But we’re likely to have the answer in the months ahead.