The Feb. 5 Metro article “Good to say ‘I’m home’ ” was good news. Linwood Blount, a chronically homeless man on the street for 30 years, found housing with the help of the right program. Meeting clients where they are, building trust and having the right program available that provides needed assistance (rent, supportive case management and health services) can help build new lives for many people on whom society has largely given up.
The future of federal funding for such programs as Permanent Supportive Housing, which helped Mr. Blount, is uncertain. The District’s commitment to this program for the chronically homeless with disabilities and to rental assistance programs for families who need help with the rent is also uncertain.
The District is a right-to-shelter city, but it is not a right-to-housing city. Consequently, the District can take an incremental approach to rental assistance, a typical political response. A little more money is put into the rental voucher programs each year, but it’s never enough to make a real change.
Eight hundred additional rental assistance vouchers are needed for families living in extreme poverty who are in shelter now. The cost would be about $16 million annually. Some would consider this a dangerous move toward codifying the right to housing. Others, based on D.C.’s proclaimed progressive values, would consider it a good investment in our residents and somehow more important than a parking structure at Union Market.
Ann Friedman, Washington
The writer is a member of the board of the
Good Faith Communities Coalition.