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It is criminal negligence to release prisoners to halfway houses and feed them only two meals a day. Washington City Paper reporter Amanda Ripley does a public service by alerting her readers to this sad reality, in “Two Squares a Day” (10/8). To help ensure that prisoners do not resort to illegal behaviors to compensate for their lunch loss, I offer the following solutions:
1. Call the D.C. Central Kitchen, (202) 234-0707, and the Capital Area Food Bank, (202) 526-5344. Tell them how many lunch-hungry people live in your halfway house, and would they please deliver some food! If federal prisoners get lunch while D.C.’s don’t, create a “segregated” lunchroom: federal felons on one side and the city’s folk on the other. (And ask both the Central Kitchen and the Food Bank to please give bag breakfasts/lunches/ dinners—at least until the first paychecks arrive—to the working city folk no longer eligible for halfway-house food.)
2. Call the U.S. General Accounting Office, follow the voice prompts, and ask for document RCED-99-49. It’s free, and it gives the names and some elementary information about 50 federal programs that homeless people may receive benefits from. The only food program that halfway-house healthy adult residents may be eligible for—homeless youth aged 17 and under have several programs of their own—is the Emergency Food Assistance Program, pp. 35-36.
3. Although halfway-house residents are not able to receive food stamps, if you’re released “to the streets” and have no place to go, you, as a homeless person, do not need a mailing address to get food stamps. Call the Food Research Action Center (FRAC) with your questions about food stamps or other food programs, (202) 986-2200. FRAC’s Food Stamp Guide, which costs money, should be available shortly. (FRAC employs specialists to answer your questions, if they’re not busy doing other work.)
To apply for food stamps, call (202) 724-5506 to find out which office is nearest to you. You may also receive Medicaid information from this same number. But you will have to make another phone call to access Medicaid after food stamps (or vice versa), because the phone disconnects after you hear only one message, although you may hear that message more than once. (Perhaps Mayor Williams will restore the message that tells people what documents to bring with them when they apply.) If you are denied benefits, ask for the denial in writing. You may appeal any food stamp decision you believe is wrong.
4. I’d love to see a D.C. councilmember analyze the St. Elizabeths food budget, and make unannounced visits there, ensuring that patients are in fact receiving nutritious food in the amounts that have been paid for. I’m not concerned with the staff eating patients’ food, but with kickbacks and graft causing chronic underfeedings (and premature deaths) among those city residents least able to help themselves. (If you are a government official, like my idea, and have the ability to act, please hire me to do this job. I am unemployed.)