The Feb. 11 editorial “Finally, a path to closing D.C. General” praised Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s (D) plan to close the decrepit and dangerous shelter at the old D.C. General Hospital and instead build small-scale, short-term shelters for homeless families in each city ward, but it questioned whether this plan is realistic. The editorial correctly noted that, “even if this plan is implemented without a hitch, the District’s homelessness problem will not be solved.” Absolutely true. That’s because of the large and growing gap between the need for affordable housing and its availability.
Right now, only 42 rental units are available for every 100 extremely-low-income households. But, astonishingly, instead of concluding that the city urgently needs to address this gap, the editorial blamed the city’s weak and limited right-to-shelter law, saying it “creates demand that will always outstrip supply.” The law doesn’t create the demand; the huge housing gap does. Legal rights are often the only protection standing between city residents and homelessness. The editorial board should know better.
Maria Foscarinis, Washington
The writer is founder and executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.