A group of advocates for the homeless called yesterday for the D.C. Council to defeat a measure that would establish new guidelines for the city's emergency shelter system for homeless families, saying the measure blames the homeless for their plight.
The bill, approved by an 11-to-2 vote on its first reading two weeks ago and scheduled for a final council vote today, would allow the mayor to reduce the public assistance payments of families staying in shelters. The bill also would establish a timetable for requiring the city to purchase or lease apartment units as temporary shelter and restrict a family's shelter stay to 180 days unless the mayor grants an extension.
Mitch Snyder, leader of the Community for Creative Non-Violence, and other housing advocates said at a news conference that the bill fails to do anything to increase the availability of affordable housing and imposes unfair restrictions disguised as incentives to get families to move out of shelters.
Diane Doherty, a social worker at the Mount Carmel Women's Shelter, said the group doubts the measure would be defeated but hopes the council will table the bill and focus instead on developing legislation to address the issue of affordable housing.
Council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7), the measure's sponsor, said the intent of the bill is not to find permanent housing but "to address temporary housing for homeless families in a sensitive, responsive way" and to meet an "an obligation to the taxpayers of the District to have some fiscal restraints."
Council member John Wilson (D-Ward 2), who voted against the measure on the first reading, said he tried yesterday to identify enough votes to overturn the measure's preliminary approval but was not optimistic it could be done.