March 26, 2013

Regarding the March 22 Metro article “Shelters turning away youths”:

This year, the D.C. Department of Human Services (DHS) has increased local funding for unaccompanied homeless youth by $1.1 million and for youth-headed homeless families by $1.8 million. While the article focused on funding for emergency beds for homeless youth, in fact DHS funds a robust continuum of services for homeless youth that includes specialized supportive services, transitional housing and independent living. Emergency beds are a part of that continuum, but DHS is focusing more effort on identifying and investing in permanent housing solutions for youth so that they don’t become homeless in the first place.

Additionally, since fiscal 2011, the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) has increased funding for its Rapid Housing program, which serves youth aging out of foster care.

At a time when human services dollars are at a premium because of federal budget cuts, D.C. officials are working to ensure that resources are spent as effectively as possible. Through this effort, we identified a number of providers who were under-spending their contracts. These contracts were reduced, and the funding was distributed to other providers or programs. While some providers of services may see their share of funding decrease, overall funding to address youth homelessness has grown.

Stories of homeless youth being turned away from a shelter are indeed heart-wrenching, and the causes of homeless youth are almost unimaginably complicated. While there are no easy solutions, D.C. officials remain committed to working with our service providers and other important partners to meaningfully address this issue.

B.B. Otero, Washington

The writer is the District’s deputy mayor for health and human services.