Correction to This Article
The article incorrectly said that Montgomery County did not receive money directly from HUD. The county received $2.1 million.

District to Get $7.4 Million in Federal Funding to Aid the Homeless

By Darryl Fears
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 11, 2009

The District is receiving $7.4 million in federal stimulus money to help homeless families and families in danger of becoming homeless, and several area suburbs are also getting grants.

A small amount of assistance "can make all the difference between a stable home and being forced to live in a shelter or on the streets," Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said in a statement announcing $1.2 billion in grants nationwide.

The District has 703 homeless families, with more than 1,400 children, according to a survey conducted by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. That figure represents a 20 percent increase over last year, according to the council, which conducts an annual count of the area's homeless population.

Most of the District's homeless families were thrown out of homes and apartments in wards 7 and 8. According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, the average homeless family is composed of a mother in her late 20s and two children.

Fairfax County received about $2 million, and Prince William and Arlington counties each received about $700,000. Baltimore got the lion's share of Maryland's funding, nearly $10 million. Prince George's County received about $3 million; Anne Arundel County, $800,000. Montgomery County did not receive a direct grant from HUD.

The money will help families faced with eviction in two weeks and residents in housing marked for condemnation. It will also help people who have experienced a sudden drop in income because of job loss or salary cuts and people who have watched their utility bills skyrocket.

In addition to rent, the aid will help pay security and utility deposits and moving and storage costs. It will provide money to governments to pay workers to assign and distribute money, provide hotel and motel payment vouchers and pay for property inspections.

But the funds will not help people pay their mortgages or credit card debts. And no renter, homeowner, evictee or homeless person will receive money directly. Payments will go to third parties, such as landlords.

The District's grant is larger than some awarded to other cities, such as Denver, which received $3.7 million, and Atlanta, which got about $3 million. But it is smaller than the nearly $15 million received by Detroit, the $34 million for Chicago and the $74 million for New York.

Homeless advocates said that they welcome the federal aid but that it will make only a dent in the homeless population. There are so many new families seeking shelter in the District that the Virginia Williams Family Resource Center, which assists such families, must turn some away, said Nassim Moshiree, a staff lawyer for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless.

"In the District, we are facing a shelter crisis," Moshiree said. "We don't have the shelter capacity to shelter all these new people."

Moshiree and other advocates implored Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) to spare agencies such as the Department of Human Services as he cuts the city budget, which is also being affected by the recession.

Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said the grants "won't be enough to deal with the problem, but it's a hell of a lot better than what we have now. Keeping people in their homes isn't just the moral thing to do; it's the practical thing to do."

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