February 5

Regarding the Feb. 1 Metro article “District changes shelter venues”:

The District faces a family homelessness crisis. The answer isn’t more shelters; it’s to start moving families quickly through the shelter system and into housing.

On the night of Jan. 29, 771 homeless families stayed at the D.C. General emergency shelter campus, in motels and in short-term rental units, according to the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness. That number is higher than the District has seen in several years, and it doesn’t include families staying at other shelters and transitional housing programs.

Families often languish in D.C. shelters for months or years. Immediately upon entering a shelter, a family should undergo an assessment to determine the most appropriate housing intervention, such as rapid re-housing or permanent supportive housing. Then it should receive housing search assistance and move into housing without delay. It’s that simple.

If Department of Human Services Director David Berns, Mayor Vincent C. Gray and the D.C. Council focused on consistently funding housing programs — including shelter diversion and emergency rental assistance programs — and accelerating families’ movement through the shelter system, then the hypothermia-season scramble to add units to the overflowing family shelter system would be a thing of the past.

Heidi Schultheis, Washington