On Oct. 30, WaPo’s editorial board took precious space away from either praising Michelle Rhee‘s school reforms or using it as a litmus test in deciding who to support in tomorrow’s election (see the board’s non-endorsement of Councilmember Mary Cheh) to address the growing numbers of D.C.’s homeless residents. Despite local government’s stagnant efforts to house the city’s neediest, the board has rarely shined a light on the District’s poverty problem.
But instead of focusing on the city’s dwindling shelters and the poor conditions at D.C. General, the city’s emergency family shelter, it chose to take a non-stand on Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells‘ residency-requirement proposal:
“The District is right to want to do something about surrounding jurisdictions that take advantage of its safety net by directing their needy residents to cross the border. At the same time, it needs to be careful that new rules don’t create insurmountable barriers for those it wants to help.
We are glad that Mr. Wells pulled back on plans to push the legislation through as emergency legislation. More needs to be learned about the scope of this problem. Advocates for the homeless have legitimate concerns about the ability of people, with complex problems and troubled lives, to meet bureaucratic requirements. There are also constitutional concerns that need to be addressed concerning residency and equal treatment. Mr. Wells says that he is confident a workable solution can be found.”
Wow. A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 8 on Wells’ bill. One question that still needs to be sorted out: Do we trust the city’s claim that 10 percent of the 180 families seeking emergency shelter this past summer were from non-District residents? And if the number is true, so what? How are District officials preparing for the sure-to-be crowded shelter system come winter?
Late October census data shows shelters are at or near capacity. At D.C. General, there are already 132 families and 217 children.