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REGARDING “LESS FOR THE Homeless” (The District Line,9/8), there are numerous errors of fact and interpretation contained therein.
We at the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness are keeping our eye on the prize—building a continuum of care. While it is true that District fiscal problems and bureaucratic delays have caused us to adjust downward the objectives we had for the first year, we have made substantial progress toward creating a system much less focused on emergency shelter and much more able to address homeless persons’ needs. I stand by my statement that “much of the promise” of the D.C. Homeless Initiative cannot be realized at the lower funding levels, and we continue to advocate for full funding of the D.C. Initiative, but we at the partnership do not “lament” our problems. We are too busy acting to change things.
Despite the budget problems, the D.C. Initiative is not “devolving into an unremarkable, troubled program.” For the record, let me state the most important facts about the D.C. Initiative that your reporter stated incorrectly or chose to ignore altogether.
First, the District never committed to spend $22 million per year in each of the three years of the D.C. Initiative. It spent about that much in fiscal ’93, but your reporter has no evidence from us to substantiate that the District “initially agreed” to maintain that level of spending.
Second, the partnership has maintained—with HUD’s cooperation in funding—all District services for single homeless people except one program (an infirmary at the Community for Creative Non-Violence shelter) that were operating before the D.C. Initiative. This maintenance of basic services was complemented by contracting for 200 new transitional units for persons disabled by substance abuse, 25 units for persons living with HIV/AIDS, 47 units for mentally ill homeless, 22 new units and a drop-in center for homeless youth, 96 single-room-occupancy units, a doubling of outreach efforts, and 125 employment-training slots. In addition, for the last two winters no one has died on the street from hypothermia, and by winter we will have an automated bed-tracking and outreach system in place.
As to families, despite the advocates’ previous fears about the Department of Public and Assisted Housing (DPAH) not being able to meet its annual D.C. Initiative goal of placing 300 homeless families in public and assisted housing, DPAH in the past year placed 1,092 families and individuals in permanent housing. The first-year goal for permanent family housing was 300 to be placed in DPAH units (which was met), with 250 more families to be placed in private housing (which was done through the Section 8 program). We were not charged to “develop,” as your article stated, 550 units of private housing in addition to the 300 DPAH units. Yet we still will develop 135 transitional units with federal funds controlled by the Department of Housing and Community Development, even if it is “only” 135, as your reporter put it. We have already funded 30 units of transitional housing for families under the D.C. Initiative, we have over 50 units of transitional family housing coming on line as a result of the last two years of HUD SuperNOFA funding applications which were coordinated and submitted by the partnership, and we will shortly fund 30 units developed by nonprofit housing groups.
Does this record, against the backdrop of substantial budget cuts, sound “unremarkable” or “troubled” to anyone besides your reporter?
Yes, we still have great challenges. Family services have only recently been handed over to the partnership by the city, and we have made changes in the way that families are treated and served at intake, a sore point for advocates for many years. Yet resources are terribly limited and we must look to Year 2 of the D.C. Initiative to improve this area. We are now going back to the community to plan new family services.
We appeal to you and all our Washington neighbors to give the D.C. Initiative a chance to get started. Don’t expect that institutional change can occur overnight, and don’t scuttle change with repetitive assertions of all that’s wrong. We appeal to City Paper to work with us to end homelessness in the District.
Deputy Director for Programs, The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, Capitol Hill