But advocates for the homeless say the plan, which they contend was “snuck into” the mayor’s budget and took them by surprise, will make it harder for people to get into shelters and easier to get kicked out — with as little as 24 hours’ notice.
Stable housing is exactly what homeless people want, families living at the D.C. General shelter testified at a budget hearing before the council Friday. But the mayor’s reforms, they say, are “misguided and insulting.”
“In spite of what the Mayor believes, we are not a horde of lazy, unmotivated, greedy moochers,” the families said in a statement. “We are families. We are people. We are tax payers; we just don’t make as much money as you do.”
The mayor’s plan calls for giving families “provisional” placements in shelters, requiring them to move into their own apartments, with a temporary rent subsidy, through a “rapid rehousing” program. It also mandates that they save 30 percent of whatever income they receive in an escrow account.
Current law requires the city to place families in shelters before caseworkers can consider other housing alternatives. And once in, the city can’t force people out without cause. That, Gray said, has created a culture of dependence.
The mayor’s budget documents state that in the current system, “there is significant incentive for families to stay in shelter,” with no rent or utility payments, free meals and public assistance. The new plan envisions shelters for emergency use only, “instead of a way of life.”
City officials said shelter residents can now turn down rapid rehousing. Many homeless families, they say, choose to wait in the shelter in the hopes of receiving a permanent voucher for public or subsidized housing. That waiting list is 35 years long.
But families staying at D.C. General said living there indefinitely is the last thing they want to do.
“A shelter, even a well-run shelter, is no place to raise children,” the families said in their statement. “If you could see the number of depressed mothers and sick babies, you would understand that we want to get out of there as quickly as possible.”
LaToya Edwards, 29, showed up with her 3-year-old daughter, Grace, and her 9-month-old baby, Christopher, to testify. In the recession, she lost her $40,000-a-year job, her apartment and her car, and her fiance left her. After a year of living in a one-bedroom apartment with her grandmother and not finding work despite having an associate’s degree, she ended up at D.C. General in January.