Monday, May 23, 2016

Mayor Bowser: Go with DC Council's Family Shelter Plan!!! (Pt 2)

The previous blog post was in response to DC Mayor Muriel Bowser's angry outburst toward Council Chairman Phil Mendelson on May 17th, 2016; an on-line letter she wrote to her constituents soon thereafter and her ongoing displays of hyperbole and sensationalism (bordering on demagoguery). There is so much to say about her particular (wo)managerial style and how she can do better that I had to do this continuation.

MOTIVES: Let me remind you (as I did in the previous post) that the DC General Family Shelter was proposed as the site for the Olympic Village had DC won the 2024 Olympic bid.

CONTINUED from May 19th post:

On March 22nd during her (SODA) State Of the District Address for which you can find the entire transcript HERE she said the following (about halfway through her speech):
"So we’re going to close DC General by opening up small, short-term family housing across the District. Beautiful and dignified places where families can thrive, and where little children can be little children."
In her online letter on May 19th she said:
"That means years of families having no choice but to stay in an old, dilapidated place that does not live up to the ethical and moral values of our city."
 Hmm. Mayor Bowser seems to be really gung-ho about closing DC General Family Shelter and opening several smaller "SHELTERS where families can THRIVE and CHILDREN can be CHILDREN" (for a short time, of course). Why is she not saying much about the 1,000-plus families that are in hotels in DC and Maryland on the city's dime??? I'm guessing that it's because they aren't in the way of an Olympic village or another major development. Just my guess.

Why is there no robust conversation about the affordable housing or living-wage job options that these families will have once they've been moved into new shelters??? For all the vices of the Ward 3 Bourgeoisie, they did ask at least one very relevant question which went something like this:

"How will families who are moved into the shelter obtain employment within 90 days, as the plan calls for, when some employment challenges take more than 90 days to address???"

The answer they got from Human Services was that it is the job of DOES (Dept. Of Employment services) to address that. I can't argue with that response from a cabinet member, though the mayor should have an answer for us -- but doesn't. Let's hope she's not taking this one from Fenty's playbook insomuch as he did a half-baked job by appointing Leslie Steen as the head of an affordable housing task force and then tied her hands behind her back so that she couldn't get the job done. We still have an affordable housing crisis years later. The council's plan may very well get us above and beyond such government dysfunction even if they and the mayor don't work well together.

Honestly, I'm left to wonder if the mayor and certain administration officials can work well with ANYONE, let alone the DC Council and if they are actually interested in connecting homeless parents or individuals to living-wage jobs. During my ICH nomination hearing in November 2015 I explained that I am currently focused on learning the fate of the CCNV Shelter and on homeless employment. More recently an administration official indicated that she (and possibly others) were reluctant to have me on the ICH. A different administration official told me (with attitude) that she thought THIS VIDEO in which I express concerns about further gentrification in DC was inappropriate. Everyone else I've spoken to disagrees with her.
These and other issues, when taken together, are proof positive that Muriel Bowser is a not-so-benevolent dictator who seeks to advance gentrifying policies under the guise of wanting to assist approx. 300 of DC's 1,300 or so homeless families -- emptying DC General for Hill East/Reservation 13/Olympic Village construction. 
Anyone who opposes Mayor Bowser -- the DC Council or Yours Truly -- is in for it. Unfortunately, I do indeed react when antagonized enough; and,that has given the administration leverage for keeping me off of the ICH (though I'll still attend meetings). Besides, the things that I do that scare them I do while not on the "wicked ItCH". go figure.

Part 1 HERE again

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Muriel Bowser, Go with the Council's Family Shelter Plan. Beats the Hell Out of Yours!!! (Pt 1)

Part 1 -- Below
Part 2: HERE

On May 17th, 2016 as Kentucky and Oregon held their presidential primaries, a couple of incumbent politicians in Washington, DC had a rather nasty spat in a hallway in the Wilson Building (City Hall). The most notable moment was when Mayor Muriel E. Bowser shouted at Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and called him a "f**king liar". A reporter was nearby recording all of it.

[For my ever-increasing number of Russian readers, I should point out that I eliminated the "uc" in what is an American curse word -- also known as an expletive. That explanation also begins to convey the gravity of the situation; as, public outbursts of anger are looked down upon in America -- especially when they come from politicians.]

Most people that I've spoken to since that day (and the author of the previous hyper-linked article) believe that Ms. Bowser is upset that the council has taken away her ability to line the pockets of her wealthy developer friends who stood to make exorbitant profits by leasing several buildings to the city for about 20 years each, after which the city would not own the buildings for which they will have paid five to ten times the market value of the buildings in rent.

At least one person believes that it is a matter of administrative embarrassment. That is to say that Mayor Bowser presented herself as a champion of the city's homeless families and promised them a better way forward. She then won the mayoral election and began to pull her administration together around this promise. On February 11th, 2016 her administration held meetings in various wards of the city so as to inform the public about her plan for replacing the decrepit DC General Family Shelter with seven smaller shelters by the fall of 2018. Now 16 months into her term and having made the promise while campaigning, Bowser's plan still has some apparent flaws (apparent to anyone who didn't help craft it anyway) and the DC Council is fixing those flaws. Contract steering aside, the mayor has plenty of reason to feel embarrassed right about now.

Add to that the fact that Muriel Bowser met with the International Olympic Committee so as to try and bring the 2024 Olympics to  DC. She failed but might try for the 2028 Olympics. The city floated the idea of building the Olympic village on the site of the DC General Hospital-turned--shelter. Neither will I let people forget that the hospital was dilapidated when closed but good enough for the homeless -- according to the Williams administration anyway. Now the same class of people who were thrown into a building that was not fit for human habitation or healthcare might get pushed out by a one-time sporting event which uses government dollars that could have gone toward social uplift of the poor to instead construct a sporting complex that will only collect dust after a few weeks in use. (This tragedy-in-the-making might be reconsidered in 2018 after many more well-to-do people who are disconnected from the struggles of the poor move to DC and change the voting dynamic.)

So, Mayor Bowser has a few reasons for wanting to close the DC General Family Shelter and the public's cries for its closure that began in the spring of 2014 following the abduction and murder of Relisha Rudd who resided at the shelter with her family have just given the mayor a good-sounding reason to close it. That is not to say that she doesn't care for homeless parents and their children on some level. She loves holding babies and being photographed with them. Her social uplift agenda favors those who are young enough to have been her children -- 24 and under. However, I AM saying that she's putting forth the reason that is most appealing to the public while hoping that they'll forget about her other motives for the planned closure.

It's worth noting that, irrespective of Mayor Bowser's motives for replacing the DC General Shelter, her efforts have made homelessness more of a political issue than it has been in this city since the death of Homeless Advocate Mitch Snyder in 1990. Her obscene outburst was just the icing on the cake -- serving to make the public discourse about poverty just a little "sweeter".

Now let's put her outburst in perspective. Muriel Bowser is the "Captain Planet" of DC mayors. After all, she had several former mayors on her transition team and is turning out to be "their foul-ups combined". She is far from the only local politician to fly into a fit of rage while operating in their official capacity, though she might be the first to do it in front of a reporter who was recording at the time. Here response to the incident???

This unapologetic letter to her on-line followers (who, for the obvious reason, would much rather take their chances following her on-line than from within arm's reach):

Dear Washingtonians,
Homeless families deserve shelter that is safe and dignified. And this February, I put forward a comprehensive plan to close DC General - by creating short-term family housing across the District.  The sites were selected based on size, location, access to transportation, and an ability to relocate homeless families to clean, safe, and dignified facilities by 2018.
This week, Chairman Mendelson and the DC Council passed a bill that includes alternate sites in several Wards.  While I am pleased to see the Council finally take action, I am concerned that their proposal delays the closure of DC General beyond 2018 and may include restrictions that jeopardize the entire program.  That means years of families having no choice but to stay in an old, dilapidated place that does not live up to the ethical and moral values of our city. 
To boot, the Council passed the legislation without hearing one word of input from District residents.  After all the Chairman’s talk about the need to listen to the community, he came up with this scheme in the dark of night, without allowing for one single day for public debate.
 We will work with the Council to minimize the delay, and give families who experience homelessness the dignity and hope they deserve.
Sincerely,

[Fouled Up Chick, Keeping Instability, Not Governing]

Now to tear into her about her latest display of hyperbole and dishonest insinuations:

1 -- Her plan was not comprehensive and I have a city council to prove it. So, I won't belabor that point.

2 -- Is it me or has anyone else noticed that she is now calling homeless shelters "short-term housing"??? The new name emphasizes the fact that shelters are not meant to be long-term residences. It also comes off to me as window-dressing that is meant to suppress the images that people have had of shelters as city-run slum dwellings that are, in many ways, worse than Public Housing.

3 -- The sites were selected based on.....location??? What the Hell does that mean??? I'm just guessing that every site is at a "location". I can be wrong occasionally; but, I'm pretty sure that I'm right about this one. That statement tells me nothing -- which is right in line with Bowser's mannerisms.

4 -- The sites were selected based on.....access to transportation??? Well, if you're a five-year old trying to travel from the proposed Ward 5 site to a strip club, all you need to do is follow the trail of used condoms a few short yards from the shelter exit to the club's doors. On the other hand, you have one city bus within two blocks and the next closest route ends two miles away, though the bus repair depot emits exhaust particulates from right across the road. You're three miles from the nearest subway station and don't have many other amenities within a reasonable walking distance -- unless you want to count a nearby KFC, Checkers's Restaurant and the Days Inn from which many of the would-be-occupants can carry their few belongings if they were to move into the proposed site.

5 -- Bowser is "pleased to see the council finally taking action". Now, that's a not-so-subtle political jab by one mayor at an entire council of 13. I'm supposing this insinuation won't do much to create good will between her and the council. Additionally, I recall the council having made homelessness a matter for the committee of the whole in early 2015, it having been a single council person's committee before that. I blogged soon thereafter about the competition that would emerge between the council and the administration. Damn, I'm good!!!

6 -- Bowser said in a fit of hyperbolic BS:

"That means years of families having no choice but to stay in an old, dilapidated place that does not live up to the ethical and moral values of our city."

Hmm. Click HERE and HERE. I'll stop there for now.

7 -- As for this bunch of baloney:

"To boot, the Council passed the legislation without hearing one word of input from District residents.  After all the Chairman’s talk about the need to listen to the community, he came up with this scheme in the dark of night, without allowing for one single day for public debate."

...she must not think that the many meetings and hearings that her administration and the council had leading up to this latest version of the plan actually counts as public input. The council's most recent plan takes all of the public input hereto now into consideration.....

To be continued. Part 2: HERE

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

DC Homeless Increase: Mayor Bowser, Focus on Living-wage Jobs!!!

On May 11th, 2016 I reviewed the stats for this blog and saw that it has become more popular in RUSSIA than it is in the United States. Maybe it's because Moscow, a city of approx. 13 million and the billionaire capital of the world has approx. 110,000 homeless people (.85% of population); while, Washington, DC, a city of 670,000 now has 8,350 homeless people (1.25% of population). The nation with the most billionaires in the world can make the case that its capital has a smaller homeless problem percentage-wise than the capital of the wealthiest(?) nation in the world which also happens to be the most powerful -- treatment of the homeless notwithstanding. Maybe Vladimir Putin (whom I really like) is building his case against President Obama or President Hillary Clinton and planning for a human rights showdown (which I'd love to watch, though Iran's Press TV has already started the ball rolling on that issue). Maybe this blog is being used to teach Russians English while informing them about the flaws in the American system. Whatever the reason, I'm glad the world is watching.

Now they have more to watch -- literally. Washington, DC's homeless population has increased from 7,298 in January 2015 to 8,350 in January 2016 and could pass the grave milestone of 10,000 during the administration of DC Mayor Muriel Bowser who has made addressing homelessness her pet project -- saying that she'll make homelessness "rare, brief and non-recurring" by the end of 2020 (with her first term ending on January 2nd, 2019). Her administration had better redouble its efforts to decrease homelessness so that the issue that has come to define Bowser's first term doesn't become the reason for her joining the ranks of the two one-term mayors that preceded her -- with her being the protege of Adrian Fenty (2007 to 2011) who was followed by Vince Gray (2011 to 2015). Unfortunately,The next full council meeting of the DC Inter-agency Council on Homelessness takes place on June 14th during which I'll be working the polls for the DC Democratic/Statehood-Green primary. I won't be able to witness the tension that unfolds at the first quarterly meeting since the numbers were published. Then again, if the June 2014 ICH Full Council meeting is any indication, this group of well-paid homeless service providers might be so nonchalant as not to even discuss the increase. (The number of homeless had increased by 13% from 6,859 in 2013 to 7,748 in 2014.) In all other years since the ICH began meeting in June 2006 the group has discussed the numbers (which take them four months to tally) at the next full meeting and talked about what was driving the increase or decrease. DC actually began counting the homeless in 2001 in which year it had 7,058 homeless people (1.23% of its population which stood at 575,000 that year).

It's worth noting that, while Moscow may very well have a bigger problem with unprovoked acts of violence being committed against the homeless, DC has had its share of mayors with draconian policies. DC also has no shortage of NIMBY-ers who more than make up for both the current lack of a draconian mayor and the decreased violence against the homeless. (RUSSIA, American democracy is not all that it's cracked up to be. It often manifests as "inverted totalitarianism".)

The current administration has indicated that it believes the most recent increase in homeless people is the result of former-mayor Gray's draconian policies having discouraged needy people from applying for shelter; while, Mayor Muriel Bowser's policies have encouraged these people to come out of the woodwork and ask for what they need. Taken together, this means two things:

1 -- We MUST look at the system as a whole: the legislature, the government and public opinion (even if it's just the vocal minority which is encouraging the chief executive to adopt policies that adversely affect the poor). Governments in this country (including both in DC) have adopted plans for addressing homelessness which their respective legislatures have failed to adequately fund. Juvenile delinquents across the country have beaten and killed homeless people for no apparent reason. Well-to-do people have raised their voices in opposition to plans that are intended to help the homeless. The overall atmosphere in DC is obviously not conducive to ending homelessness -- cost of living aside, for now.

2 -- Apart from the functionality or dysfunction of an administration, we can't seem to establish any continuity across administrations for decreasing homelessness. This is true for the federal and local governments -- making two-terms presidents a plus (at least when they are as bro-gressive as Obama). What progress WAS made during Fenty was lost during Gray. Now Bowser is trying to bounce back to where Fenty left off -- which might take until early 2019 when Hillary Clinton taps her as vice president following the death of Bernie Sanders.

The stats that were released on May 11th indicate that the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population is still families with small children (which has been true for at least six years). With the feds having begun in earnest in the early 2000's to house the mentally and physically disabled homeless and the DC Government having bought into this program in 2008, I believe it's high time that DC Government began devoting the majority of its housing resources to assisting the able-bodied homeless. After all, more than 90% of homeless parents are able-bodied (even if many of them are poorly-educated). The local system as a whole -- legislature, government, business community, general public and non-profit-industrial complex -- has proven to have an aversion to adopting policies and practices that connect the able-bodied homeless to living-wage jobs. Being the cynic and realist that I am, I believe this happens for two reasons:

1 -- The local machine in its entirety wants to draw in high-income people (like Moscow has already done). The local system is geared toward attracting big business and good-paying jobs which those who attended local schools are not qualified to fill (though Mayor Bowser has an employment initiative that essentially replaces the trade schools that DC closed in 1975).

2 -- Able-bodied homeless people are not the cash cows that disabled homeless people are. That is to say that the disabled homeless will go from a government/non-profit-run shelter to a government/non-profit-run housing program; while, able-bodied homeless people will exit the system altogether once assisted with their employment challenges. The non-profits stand to receive a lot of government money for those who remain within the system. I believe the term for such folk is "poverty pimp". Go figure.

Fortunately, Mayor Bowser's commitment to addressing homelessness also serves to back her against the wall and make her fix a broken, scandalous system. (I love imperatives, mandates and dictates -- when they're directed at dysfunctional government.) If she doesn't do more to employ the homeless, she'll join the ranks of the only other female mayor the city has ever had -- Sharon Pratt-Kelly whose policies led to the city government going under federal oversight (i.e. the control board) -- and might solidify the local electorate's propensity for electing male mayors firmly in place. (I personally support equality between men and women.)

What's more is that all good ideas for decreasing DC homelessness come from the feds (and the homeless advocates who, like myself, have experienced homelessness). Permanent Supportive Housing was adopted by the feds and led to DC having a considerably smaller increase in homeless people than it would have otherwise had. Now there is the federal law called the Workforce Innovations and Opportunities Act or WIOA which mandates that local governments do better at connecting hard-to-employ people to jobs. having been signed by Obama in July 2014, it must be implemented by local governments by July 2016. (I'm involved in meetings around how DC Government will come into compliance within two months.) If the feds make enough laws that are intended to end homelessness, then DC will see its numbers drop. Keep hope alive.

In closing, Washingtonians have Mayor Bowser's own words, the most recent one-year increase in homeless people and a federal mandate to hold over the mayor's head and to back her against the political wall. She said less than a week after taking office that she plans to run again and her plans for ending homelessness extend beyond her current term. Failing at her pet project could be political suicide, though it would be the broader messages about her management style and not her failures to the city's poor which would cause most people to vote against her -- her lack of transparency concerning how she chose sites for the smaller family shelters; her efforts to minimize public input (which I partially agree with her on); possible contract steering and now her nasty attitude toward a dissenting politician, just to name a few.  The tension is mounting. I almost expect her to attend the June ICH meeting and lay into people really hard about how they must do better. Too bad I won't be there to speak to her like she spoke to Council Chairman Mendelson. STAY TUNED.


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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

What Good Is Our Advocacy for the Poor and Homeless Doing???

"We the advocates can do better at making government do better by the poor who want to do better for themselves."

I was asked on April 20th, 2016 by someone in DC Government [PARAPHRASED]:

"Eric, why do you think it is that some recent hearings that pertain to issues being fought for by the Fairbudget Coalition and related groups around poverty and homelessness are not well-attended???"

I posed this question to a staff member of the Fairbudget Coalition along with some of my thoughts on the matter and got a rather interesting reply. Then the Fairbudget Coalition had its monthly meeting on May 4th and different attendees mentioned ways in which they believe that our advocacy is either weakening or has never been strong to begin with.

It's worth noting that the government employee didn't refer to the Fairbudget Coalition by name. However, since FBC is the biggest and strongest advocacy group fighting for the poor of Washington, DC, I decided to address the aforementioned question to them and to use them as a reference point for this topic.

Before I get into the more volatile discussions that were raised at the May 4th meeting, I'll list the reasons for low hearing attendance that I set forth in my initial e-mail on the topic, followed by the list of reasons that were sent to me in response:

From me (Eric Sheptock):

1 -- People aren't getting the word (reading e-mails about advocacy events in time).

2 -- Folk just have really busy schedules and can't make it to DC Council hearings.

3 -- There's a reason for which they don't figure it to be worth their time to attend hearings.


4 -- An FBC meeting attendee said during the March meeting that any mayor's first budget is usually pretty progressive; but, all budgets thereafter are often quite unfavorable. That might explain a sharp drop in hearing attendance; as, folk may feel that they've accomplished all of the progressive goals that they can accomplish with this mayor who took office in 2015.

5 -- Being the old hand that I am at advocacy (hell-ebrating 10 long, hard years in mid-June), I know that the advocates used to remind each other of the victories we'd won through direct action and that would serve to boost morale for the next go-'round. I don't see much of that happening anymore.

6 -- I've heard different people say that they thought the budget engagement sessions [during which Mayor Muriel Bowser allowed the general public to weigh in through guided discussions on the budget she was drafting] were one big farce. As a matter of fact, they said it at the March FBC meeting. This might offer some insight into how people are relating to the Bowser administration, with the mayor's honeymoon being over now. They felt that the forums created a facade of public input which only served as a cover for a system of "inverted totalitarianism" wherein a matter is put to a vote in a way that guarantees that the will of the chief executive or a small cadre will prevail under the guise of democracy. It's not to be confused with its kissin' cousin "Bourgeois Democracy" which promotes the will of the wealthy minority and of those who control large sums of money over the will of the masses.

[SOLUTIONS]

7 -- I'll mention an idea that I know I've mentioned in the past which is: We shouldn't end our budget season engagement after money is handed off to the various departments; but, we at FBC should have committees that correspond with the DC Council committees and/or DC Government departments and should further engage at the next level so as to help guide policy and how money and resources move within a deputy mayor's cluster or within a department.


8 -- Something that I've thought about often for many years now is the need to have and to advocate from a concrete social theory such as Marxism, Socialism or even Communism. After all, the GOP-revered Ronald Reagan used Keynesianism (Trickle-down Theory) as the basis for his Reaganomics and his legacy is not completely unraveled. That said, multiple people have told me since mid-April 2016 that they see the need for advocates and service providers to stop just "putting out fires" and to work proactively from a broad but well-defined vision of what society should be like. Maybe we just need to begin a Marxist study group and develop our social theory as a way of reinvigorating people.

[ADVICE/PRINCIPLES]

9 -- I tell people in my many speeches and conversations that getting mad at government and storming out of the Wilson Building (City Hall) with a supposed "threat" not to return doesn't bring us any closer to the system we want. It makes it easier for crooked politicians and their cronies to do what they do and get away with it. Staying involved in some way, shape, form or fashion is the only thing that MIGHT get what we want which is for everyone to have what they need. When we walk away, people in power cover their mouths as they laugh us to scorn.

10 -- In closing, I maintain that a benevolent dictatorship such as the one that Hugo Chavez once considered creating is the only form of governance that works well for the poor; and, capitalism is an oppressive, though not monolithic, system.

A certain person responded with:

Hey Eric, 

1 -- I, myself, have been feeling (and I think this feeling may be shared by others), that hearing's haven't been feeling like a productive use of time or all that effective. I've still been testifying and attending, but it's incredibly time consuming for only getting 3 minutes to actually speak, and it's getting more and more difficult to get community members to feel like it's a productive use of their time.

2 -- Often, we hear that they have really negative experiences, especially when Councilmembers ask them questions, and in the end, it's really not clear if their input made any meaningful difference. 

3 -- I do think we need to reassess our strategy to figure out the most strategic and effective use of our time and resources (and I agree that we need to do a much better job at tracking and following the money).

*****End of edited/abbreviated e-mail thread*****
*****Beginning of comments from May 4th meeting*****

On May 4th a certain Aaron who often attends meetings (and asked that I DO use his name in this post) spoke passionately about the fact that there were approximately 25 White non-profit personnel in the room and only three Black people including himself. He mentioned how that, in spite of the fact that most or all of the homeless families at the DC General Family Shelter are Black, most of those speaking up about the issue are White. Aaron asked, "If Black people were to fill the meeting room, would they be heard???".

(I responded by telling him that we have to FORCE people to hear us.) Aaron made other relevant points about how there is more than just an income disparity between Blacks and Whites -- that there is a disparity in terms of how often the opinions of either race are heard and taken seriously. (I would add that, while Blacks are the poorest race in this country percentage-wise, there are actually more poor Whites.)

A female attendee mentioned how "risk-averse" many of the advocates seem to be. She pointed out that the non-profit for which she works has often taken the lead on matters that others might find risky for personal reasons and/or in terms of their non-profit's funding sources -- the latter of which is often government. With her sitting right next to me, I pointed out that I am not risk averse. I don't work for a government-funded non-profit and I have nothing to lose.

I sometimes question the motives of certain non-profits. In addition to the fact that many non-profits stand to lose funding if they were to oppose the government, there is the fact that non-profits can use the disabled homeless population as cash cows in ways that they can't use the able-bodied homeless. The disabled will go from using shelters and other programs for the homeless to being placed in Permanent Supportive Housing complete with case management from a non-profit. The able-bodied homeless, if connected to living-wage jobs and affordable housing, will no longer be under the auspices of any non-profit. I'd have to assume that the non-profits have known this for a long time. It begins to explain why there is more energy in the advocacy community around housing for the disabled than there is for affordable housing and living-wage jobs to assist the able-bodied. It is also the reason that I have begun to focus my energy on the issues of A-bods -- especially those at the CCNV Shelter.
So much for the non-profits. The topic of stupid questions from council was also raised on May 4th. DC Councilmembers have been known to ask directors of different departments of DC Government if these directors agree with the mayor's budget. in lieu of the fact that these directors stand to lose their six-figure jobs, it would be counter-intuitive for them to state their disagreement -- making the question from a councilmember a stupid one. Councilmembers have also asked single mothers who were testifying about their need for social services where the father of the children was -- thus showing no regard for how the mother might not choose to divulge that part of her story to the public during a televised hearing. While I'm doubtful that such stupid questions are the reason for a decrease in hearing attendance, the stupidity and dysfunction of government should be documented and dealt with.

Yours Truly said that we should hold the mayor to her word concerning the creation of a path to middle class for the city's poor and concerning her administration's 5-year plan to end all current homelessness in the city -- making homelessness "rare, brief and non-recurring". Many meeting attendees are highly doubtful that the mayor will succeed in either respect. The city's poor have more obstacles to obtaining living-wage employment than the administration has admitted to or planned to overcome thus far. That's not to speak of the fact that the DC Council would need to fund the creation of 2,000 units of housing for the homeless annually (minus those who self-resolve); but, are only funding one-fourth to one-third of that. The administration has devised a plan that the council has agreed to but fails to fully fund. Go figure.

It is with this in mind that I asked FBC if they think we should shame the government into doing better by getting an article in the Washington Post about how the council should put its money where its mouth is. I told people that I really don't mind being mean and went so far as to promise to use my mean streak to help FBC begin this difficult conversation in earnest: the conversation about how we the advocates can do better at making government do better by the poor who want to do better for themselves.

Since I've planned for a couple of weeks now to convene a May 15th meeting of DC homeless advocates so that we can get on the same page about a number of issues, we now have just a little bit more to talk about. But I'll domy best to ensure that we do much more than just talk. We'll discuss the aforementioned issues and many more and chart a path forward that forces government to do better by its poor constituents. STAY TUNED.

Eric Sheptock's Cell: 240-305-5255

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Mayor Muriel Bowser, Fight NIMBY-ites with a Jobs Plan

I said late last year and earlier this year that, with 2016 being a seventh year, it would be a "Year of JOB-ilee" for the homeless; and, this is just what it is turning out to be. DC Government is hard at work implementing the piece of federal legislation known as the "Workforce Innovations and Opportunities Act" or "WIOA" which basically mandates that municipalities connect hard-to-employ people to jobs. That group, of course, includes the homeless. The website that bears my name and another website that my colleagues and I worked on with American University both speak to issues surrounding homeless employment. With the CCNV Shelter's future in limbo, much is being said about the need to connect its residents to employment -- a need that can be met even now and does not need to be connected to a shelter closure. But, while much is being said and done about homeless employment issues, there is at least one very important thing that is NOT being done:
As DC Mayor Muriel Bowser promotes her plan to replace the decrepit DC General Family Shelter with seven smaller shelters in all but one of the city's wards, she is promoting it as a better shelter system while failing to highlight the parts of her plan that would assist homeless parents in their efforts to find living-wage jobs.
While it's true that there are many forces opposing her plan, it stands to reason that presenting the plan as one that will "grow people beyond homelessness" (as former DHS director Clance Carter would say) is much more attreactive to the general public. I've even taken to using this metaphor:
If Satan and the administration of Hell were to decide that Hell (like Don King's hairdo) is too large and unmanageable, they might divide it into eight smaller sections. Even so, folk would still be in Hell.
A wise man once said, "If you're going through Hell, don't stop! Keep moving!" That thinking applies here. Homelessness is Hell. Homeless people don't need smaller, more manageable Hells. They need a way out. I'm guessing that some of the NIMBY-ites (the vocal minority) would become more accepting of the mayor's plan if its employment component was the leading edge -- if it were presented as a plan to connect people to jobs rather than a plan to improve shelter conditions. Some NIMBY-ites would simply be less inclined to oppose a plan that highlights employment efforts because it would expose them for the NIMBY-ites that they are. Let's face it: the bourgeoisie has had much practice at glossing over their hatred of the poor; but, presenting an idea that addresses their concerns and/or aligns with their stated principles forces them to either be satisfied or to be more direct about their true intentions. promoting a robust employment plan for homeless parents gets us there.

I should remind people that I have critiqued the city's efforts toward homeless employment insomuch as most of its efforts are focused on parents ages 18 to 24. The Bowser administration is also focused on connecting young criminals ages 18 to 24 to employment. What I know of the plan looks good to me. It's just that neither I nor any of the people I know who are at least 25 years old can ever fit into that group again. That said, when the Bowser administration talks to the public about the plan to replace DC General Family Shelter, they should put the employment piece front and center and even develop a title that includes something about employment (like Bill Clinton did with his "Welfare to Work" program -- despite any of its flaws).

Having belabored that point sufficiently, let me move on. I said that there are many forces opposing Mayor Bowser's plan. in addition to the NIMBY-ites/Bourgeoisie of Ward 3, there are the Ward 5 residents who impressed me as they presented better alternatives to the proposed shelter site for their ward. I really have to speak of them separately from the NIMBY-ites. Their reasons for opposing the mayor's plan are legitimate.

Then there is the cost. Even Dan Tangherlini -- who served as DC city administrator in which capacity he had to lead ICH meetings but now heads GSA -- has weighed in. A recent article that features him indicates that DC Government can cut the cost of replacing the family shelter in half by purchasing the proposed sites rather than leasing the five sites as the current plan calls for. (Two sites are already city-owned.) This will prove to be a major sticking point with the DC Council. I actually like Councilman David Grosso's idea of using Eminent Domain to just TAKE these properties from the developers (except in Ward 5), throw an envelope full of cash amounting to the fair market value for these properties at the developers and then create shelter at a much lower cost than the current plan calls for. Maybe David Grosso is that benevolent dictator that we need.

At this point, I've listed a few of the forces coming against DC Mayor Muriel Bowser as she aims to replace the family shelter. In short they are:

1 -- NIMBY-ites/Bourgeoisie (mainly in Ward 3)
2 -- DC Residents with legitimate reasons to oppose the plan (like in Ward 5)
3 --Cost (when compared to suitable alternatives)
4 -- The commendable frugality of the DC Council

However, I'm thinking that I should add at least one more item:

5 -- Public stupidity.

In my many speeches and in an occasional boisterous conversation on public transit, I like to talk about how stupid the general public can be. (That's probably the one point on which Ben Carson and I agree. He's a brain surgeon. He should know.) Without belaboring this topic, as it could fill a book, I'll say this much:

On the one hand, people say "NIMBY: Not in my back yard" when the government elects to place a shelter in their neighborhood.

On the other hand, people say "NITNA(U): Not in the next apartment (unit)" when the government is housing the homeless.

STUPID PEOPLE don't want homeless people living in a shelter near them. Neither do they want homeless people living in the next apartment. However, these housed people are too stupid to realize that the latter problem will never exist insomuch as, once the homeless are housed, they're not homeless anymore. These same housed people (the ones who were never homeless) are also too stupid to realize that being opposed to the homeless person obtaining shelter OR housing in that neighborhood exposes them as bourgeois haters of the poor -- as someone who just hates anyone who doesn't make six figures.

STUPID PEOPLE fail to realize that saying "NIMBY" is the same as saying "YISEBY: Yes in somebody else's back yard". They seem to want to do with the homeless what the U.S. Military-Congress does with POW's from the War Of.....err On Terror. The big difference is that we KNOW whose back yard the POW's are going to: Cuba's. NIMBY-ites make no attempt to figure out whose back yard the homeless will end up in.

I'll venture to guess that, after the city concentrates enough homeless shelters in one small area, it will be some of the same NIMBY-ites who complain that city officials have created SKID ROW -- which is pretty much what the area around DC General has become.

Let's not forget about the STUPID COPS in various municipalities who tell the homeless "You can't sleep here.....You can't sleep there in that park either.....You can't sleep on that sidewalk either....." Let's not forget that it was considered torture when U.S. soldiers deprived Iraqi POW's of sleep.

Long story short, any member of the public who chooses to weigh in on the matter of homelessness should be prepared to answer both of these questions:

1 -- How would you ensure that homeless people are able to have all of their immediate needs met (including shelter, food, clothing etc)???

2 -- How would you end homelessness???

THE END.

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Friday, April 8, 2016

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser Promote Homeless Employment B4 Family Shelters

I maintain my assertion that BENEVOLENT DICTATORSHIP is the only form of governance that effectively helps the working poor. (Maybe after Bernie Sanders becomes Hillary Clinton's vice president, he'll spend his last two years on the planet creating Wall Street regulations and social reforms that eliminate the need for the working poor to obtain food stamps and rental assistance.) The extreme NIMBY-ism that is reaching a boiling point in reaction to DC Mayor Muriel Bowser's plan to replace the DC General Family Shelter stands as a testament to my first point. The NIMBY-ists have gotten downright ugly, going so far as to do a mass walk-out on the mayor's administration as the admin held one of its many meetings since 2/11 about he mayor's plan. (These people went so far as to attend a March 17th hearing about the family shelter plan which was held at City Hall and complained while there about having not been given the opportunity to voice their concerns. Go figure.) The more suave -- and less rude -- residents of DC were able to formulate NIMBY-ish reasons that sounded somewhat legit, though any seasoned advocate could see right through the BS (and didn't need to have a BS to do it).

The poor don't need for their issues to be put to a public vote just so that an unsympathetic, ill-informed and oft irrational public can demand that government officials implement draconian policies. I believe the phrase for such a practice is "inverted totalitarianism". While some might ask why it is that the mayor is attempting to create emergency legislation that would allow her to move forward on her plan to replace an emergency shelter which came under extreme scrutiny after an 8-year old girl went missing from it, I say that the real question is, "Why do we put this or any matter concerning a public emergency to a public vote and a prolonged public input process??? Doesn't that contradict the nature of an emergency???". If I ever see a Ward 3 resident choking, I'm going to take a vote on who should perform the Heimlich maneuver before anyone is allowed to help them. We'll be able to house another homeless family soon thereafter. long story short, the homeless need a BENEVOLENT DICTATOR to work on their behalf.

I'm still holding out hope that Muriel Bowser (or a cabinet member who deals with homelessness) will become that BENEVOLENT DICTATOR that we need. Some of the mayor's behaviors which DC residents including Yours Truly have presented as negatives have begun to take on a positive air -- for me, anyway. Not giving ample notice about meetings concerning the proposed family shelter sites has probably reduced the number of NIMBY-ists who inundate the administration with their solution-free complaints down to a third or less of what it would have otherwise been. A perceived lack of transparency concerning how she chose the sites has, no doubt, impeded the ability of the more suave NIMBY-ists to formulate arguments that sound legit but which only serve as a front for an all-out hatred of the poor. Though I've suspected that the Bowser administration was waiting until six months or less before the planned closure of the CCNV Shelter to inform its residents (an idea which would have made it impossible to adequately address the employment challenges of able-bodied homeless people), I've now begun to tell the many homeless people who ask about the 1,350-bed shelter's future that the crises surrounding homeless families and a single males' shelter outside of which several murders have occurred since 2012 are forcing the mayor to put CCNV's future on the back burner. That said, I'll suspend judgment on Mayor Bowser's style and manner for now. I might need to make like a funny little presidential candidate and completely back-pedal on my comments about my perception of underhandedness on her part.

I recently highlighted what the mayor said about homeless during her 2016 State of the District Address (SODA) as having been a sensationalistic attempt to extort people into complying with her plan. She said:

"So we’re going to close DC General by opening up small, short-term family housing across the District. Beautiful and dignified places where families can thrive, and where little children can be little children.

But we cannot do it alone. The Council paved the way with a vote last fall, and we need your next vote to move us forward again.

I urge us not to be distracted by arguments based on fear…..or convenience….or apples and oranges comparisons that falsely represent the cost of lifting families out of homelessness.

Because make no mistake. If we fail to act – or if we do not move forward with one of the sites – we will not be able to close DC General. Not now, not any time soon, and maybe never.
While I'm not reversing that judgment, the more recent reactions to her plan by Wards 3 and 5 necessitate a revisiting of the reality of a plan that includes new construction being brought to fruition in less than 2.5 years. While the Ward 3 Bourgeoisie was just being downright nasty, Ward 5 residents brought forth some very legit reasons as to why the chosen site for that ward will not work -- and they presented alternatives. Even so, the mayor DID say that "If we do not move forward with [even] ONE of the sites – we will not be able to close DC General. Not now, not any time soon, and maybe never". and we now have at least TWO sites to which there might be enough opposition to put the plan for that site -- and for the closing of DC General Shelter AND for the construction of an Olympic village in the Hill East neighborhood by 2028 -- on hold. In lieu of this intensifying opposition, MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER needs to be reminded of HER OWN WORDS, take a good hard look at the probability of implementing her plan before her 2018 re-election bid -- and possibly change her plan significantly.

SOLUTION: Unlike the snobbish, NIMBY-ist Ward 3 Bourgeoisie, I like to present solutions. For the solution to this matter, we can pull from the words of people who (like me, a Ward 6 resident) attended the Ward 3 Family Shelter meeting on February 11th, some of whom asked LAURA ZEILINGER how homeless families were going to exit any of these yet-to-be-built shelters when some of the families had already been in the current shelter for over a year and some employment challenges take more than 90 days to address. (Though said in a hateful spirit, some of their arguments actually DO hold water.) The BOWSER ADMINISTRATION might do well to place greater emphasis on employment for homeless parents and singles even now. Then, even as they softened and euphemized the term "shelter" by calling it "temporary housing", they could eliminate the narrative of "moving homeless families into better shelters" and replace it with one that promotes "connecting the working poor to living-wage jobs and affordable housing". After all, it stands to reason that, if families that have been residing in the current shelter and in hotels for 90 days or more thus far haven't found living-wage employment already, then relocating to better shelters won't change that -- for the better, anyway. The general public might be more amenable to having the "working poor" move into their neighborhoods than they are to having people whom the Gray administration presented as "lazy and shiftless" moving into their neighborhoods. If the wealthy of Ward 3 were to reject even the working poor, then their hatred of the Proletariat and Broletariat would be further exposed -- and quite unquestionably and irreversibly, at that.

What's more is that, at the end of the [work]day, living-wage jobs would help the homeless (the majority of whom are able to work) to exit homelessness. I've suspected that public officials in all administrations since January 1999 (Williams: 1999 to 2007; Fenty: 2007 to 2011; Gray: 2011 to 2015; Bowser 2015 to present) were afraid that, if they addressed the employment and wage issues of the city's homeless, then that would begin a ripple effect wherein the housed poor might join the homeless in common cause and the low-income workers from nearby states whom the gentrifiers seek to keep out would flock to the District. Ironically, it is a renewed emphasis on living-wage jobs for the homeless and poor which may very well be what saves the mayor's plan for homeless families -- and her 2018 re-election bid. So, Mayor Muriel Bowser Promote Homeless Employment B4 Family Shelters

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Let's Work with Mayor Bowser to Decrease homelessness

It's wonderful that DC now has a mayor who is fully committed to making homelessness “rare, brief and non-recurring”. In 2003 and 2004 Tony Williams oversaw the creation of a 10-year plan to end homelessness – a plan that was discarded after three years. Adrian Fenty oversaw the creation of Permanent Supportive Housing for the elderly and disabled homeless. Vince Gray committed to addressing homelessness in the waning months of his administration, following the abduction of 8-year old Relisha Rudd from the family Shelter in March of 2014. In the meantime, the city has gone from having 5,757 homeless people in January of 2007 to having approximately 8,000 homeless people in DC proper now -- which shouldn't be confused with the 12,000 in DC Metro. (The foot count of DC's homeless wasn't done this year due to Snowstorm Jonas “Snowzilla”.) Howbeit, Mayor Muriel Bowser might just be the one to reverse the trend – though not without the help of the DC Council.

Mayor Bowser has retained Kristy Greenwalt as the director of the Inter-agency Council on Homelessness (ICH). Kristy, who assumed her current post on April 28th, 2014, is the first director of an agency that has been meeting since June 2006. Kristy has overseen the creation of a 5-year plan which is slated to connect all of the city's current homeless to housing by the end of 2020 and which will lead to all newly-homeless people being connected to housing within 90 days. These represent awesome,though ambitious, goals.

Mayor Bowser has also brought back Laura Zeilinger who served as assistant director of the Dept. of Human Services under Fenty and has made her director of DHS. Evidenced by a recently-released audit that was done on DHS in 2014, Laura is working hard to rebuild the department and fix its many flaws. If the several women whom the mayor has appointed to direct departments that serve the poor, homeless and socioeconomically deprived are the mayor's “Poverty Dream Team”, then Laura Zeilinger is definitely the quarterback – and she often gets sacked by the media and mounting public pressure. She's a real champ.

The fact remains that Mayor Bowser has made significantly decreasing homelessness in DC – an effort that three men before didn't succeed at – into something of a pet project. Since it may come to define her first term, she's highly motivated to succeed – a truth which has its pros and cons. What's more is that the general public is becoming more politicized as the nuances of dealing with DC homelessness get played out in the public sphere – from the Amber alert posters of Relisha Rudd on buses and bus shelters to the media coverage of tent-city closures to the council and ward meetings about the mayor's plan to replace the DC General Family Shelter which, for the most part, replaced the DC Village Family Shelter – the former having increased its capacity from 115 units to 288 units in 2012 after the latter was closed in 2007.

It was a man who passed homeless people under a bridge each day on his way to work who decided to buy a few tents out of pocket. He then began a crowd-funding site through which he raised $24,000 and bought many more for the homeless in other locations around the city. This led to residents of the Foggy Bottom community taking notice of dozens of homeless people who'd been camped out near the Watergate hotel for years – but without tents until late 2015. Some of these residents contacted city officials in order to have the tent city dismantled. Since then, DC Government has begun a campaign to dismantle tent cities all over the city. The man who began it all, though he's not happy about the tent cities being dismantled, is glad that he was able to play a role in bringing attention to the issue of homelessness.

Members of the public have voiced their concerns at meetings which the Bowser administration held in various wards on February 11th, 2016 to promote her family shelter plan. They can also be seen testifying at the March 17thcouncil hearing on this matter. They can be heard raising many technical and logistical questions from the proposed shelter sites' cost to their proximity to bus lines and transit stations. (This post won't due justice to the many things people said. View the hearing.) But it was the residents of Ward 5 who really set the bar for the public's engagement in this process of remaking the family shelter system. Residents thought that the proposed site for the Ward 5 family shelter was not suitable for many reasons. However, they didn't stop there. They scouted around and found alternative sites, loaded them onto a website and sent the link along with a letter to city officials. This is a prime example of how we can avoid merely complaining about the doings of public officials and we can actually work together to make DC a better place.

It's worth noting that many homeless people have barriers to employment that won't be resolved within 90 days. This doesn't preclude the administration from housing them first and addressing their employment challenges later. After all, the designers of the city's Permanent Supportive Housing program said during the series of meetings between April and September of 2008 that the plan was to start out housing the most vulnerable homeless who have mental and physical disabilities and to eventually transition into also housing those who are able to work (A-bods). In either instance the city would use a “housing first” approach that places the person in housing and then addresses the issues that led to that person becoming homeless. With city officials scrambling to implement the federal law called the Workforce Innovations and opportunities Act (WIOA), this might be a good time to complete the transition to also housing the able-bodied homeless – a transition that began with the crisis response to the DC General Family Shelter situation but has yet to spill over into the singles' shelters.

It's imperative that we take note of the fact that DC homelessness is the result of a toxic mix of social ills – low wages, increasing rents, gentrification, a problem-ridden educational system etc. Some of the residents who experience these and other social ills never actually become homeless. Others take years after losing a job to finally enter shelter. But all DC residents should want cures to these ills and to the homelessness that often results from them. As many homeless advocates often say, “We're all just a paycheck away from becoming homeless”.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser MUST Make Homelessness "Rare, Brief and Non-Recurring"

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has made dealing with homelessness her pet project. She and her administration have said thousands of times collectively both verbally and in print that she will make homelessness "rare, brief and non-recurring". To be clear, I really, really, really want her to succeed. Only the high-five and the six-figure earning homeless service providers gain anything from the mayor failing in this respect. Neither homeless people nor government officials who can be held accountable for such failures stand to gain from another failed plan. So, I'm putting it on the public record even now that I will do everything within my power to help her succeed -- everything from publicizing and attending meetings where homeless people can give input as to how city officials can assist us at exiting homelessness to pointing out any and all perceived holes in the mayor's five-year plan to end homelessness.

Mayor Bowser, whether she knows it or not, has created conditions whereby her progress -- or lack thereof -- on getting all current homeless people housed and creating a system whereby new shelter arrivals will be rehoused within 90 days is quickly becoming the issue that will define her re-election bid in 2018. Being as the replacement shelters for homeless families who are currently residing at the decrepit DC General Family Shelter are slated for completion by September 2018, I'm inclined to believe that Ms. Bowser is keenly aware of the fact that her political future is riding on this issue. That would also begin to explain why she aims to limit public input on a plan that she wants carried out within two-and-a-half years and which involves both new construction and renovations.

Unfortunately, timing the unveiling of these several new and smaller "temporary housing facilities" to prop her up during her re-election bid has caused her and at least some of her administration to view ongoing public input as a major obstacle and has created a perceived lack of transparency -- with her having run for office on a promise of transparency. Then again, she can claim to have been "transparent" insomuch as she's made it "clear" that her mind is made up and she's moving forward with her plan -- regardless of who doesn't like it. (A bad pun, to be sure.) In lieu of congressional bickering around the funding of the H.E.A.R.T.H. Act; NIMBY-ism around the proposed locations of different shelters and my many calls for centralized power as a solution to homelessness, I can appreciate MURIEL BOWSER being a dictator -- as long as she's a BENEVOLENT DICTATOR like Hugo Chavez sought to become.

After all, worldwide capitalism has created an environment in which a person's value is determined by how much money they own or control. Additionally, various national, state, local and intra-agency democratic processes often lead to both politicians and the general public voting against plans that would assist the homeless. This begins to describe the  toxic mix of conditions that people who are working hard to end homelessness have to contend with. Democracy is not all that it's cracked up to be. I get it. Completely.

Oddly enough, Mayor Bowser's resolve to decrease DC homelessness has led to government dysfunction and NIMBY-ism becoming strange bedfellows. As far as government dysfunction (a phenomenon that Bowser inherited from the previous administration, as indicated by A RECENTLY-PUBLISHED AUDIT) is concerned, the public has touted problems with the Requests For proposals that were put forth by the Gray administration and were not updated before being re-issued by Bowser. They've also complained about having only been given two-day's notice about the meetings held in various wards on February 11th, 2016 to inform the public about the mayor's family shelter plan. They've complained that the city issued letters of intent that were both untimely and nondescript. With me having attended the Ward 3 meeting on February 11th and having testified [beginning at 2h, 50m] alongside Ward 3 residents on March 17th, I've heard residents of that ward (the wealthiest in the city) articulate other technical concerns such as the homeless families' access to public transit (not a major issue for the chosen Ward 3 site, IMHO), possible school overcrowding, issues with zoning variances, the fact that the city won't own most of the proposed shelter sites, access to stores for these homeless families and the likelihood that homeless parents will overcome their employment challenges within the 90-day period that Mayor Bowser has said it will take to cycle new homeless families out of shelter beginning in 2020. While all of the aforementioned concerns are indeed legitimate, I can't help but wonder if it's just another form of NIMBY-ism. I suspect that it is; but, I'll take it for what it's worth. The NIMBY-ers and the homeless advocates can ourselves become strange bedfellows and move together toward creating a more efficient government that serves both its monied people and its poor people well -- thus cushioning the effects of an emerging class war.

While there is little chance that public opposition will force any change in the mayor's plans for family shelter in most of the city's eight wards, it seems highly likely that the planned Ward 5 site will be replaced with another. What's more is that Ward 5 has become a beacon for how best to work with local government -- by thinking things through for the government and presenting possible solutions and alternatives to our public officials. With homeless families containing small children, the Ward 5 residents have pointed out that the proposed shelter site is near a strip club and that used condoms are often found on the ground in that area. They've also pointed out the site's proximity to train tracks and a bus depot where buses are fixed and which produces much soot that settles on window sills and elsewhere. They've also pointed out that there is one bus route within a couple blocks of the proposed site with the next nearest city bus route ending two miles away. Add to that the fact that the nearest school is a mile away and the nearest grocery is two miles away. When you factor in a developer who owns much of Washington, DC including the old warehouse that might be turned into the Ward 5 Family Shelter (city officials having spoken repeatedly against "warehousing the homeless"), suspicions arise of government officials steering contracts to their corporate/development cronies. (That's not to speak of a suspicion I heard on 3/22/16 of Bowser, 43 being involved with this 70-something developer. I can hardly see it, though there IS precedent in the man whose protege she is and documented proof of the fascistic marriage of DC Government and development.)

However, Ward 5 residents have found alternative sites, compiled them electronically and sent the list to city officials for consideration. This leaves the municipal government with very little wiggle room for making excuses around not being able to come up with alternatives. The threats to the health and well-being of the homeless children makes it imperative for city officials to push for an alternative site. The well-founded suspicions of cronyism make it political suicide for the Bowser administration to fail to find an alternative Ward 5 site. Ward 5 got it right. What's more is that I don't suspect them of exercising glorified NIMBY-ism like I do with Ward 3. Other wards should emulate Ward 5. Seriously.

In keeping with my preference for solutions over mere complaints and with my tendency to promote best practices, it seems fitting for me to mention someone whom I've known since July 23rd, 2007 and whom I've grown quite fond of. That would be DHS Director Laura Zeilinger who, unbeknownst to me until my arrival, was the one who spoke at the Ward 3 meeting on 2/11. Despite her stint as deputy director of DHS under former mayor Adrian Fenty (2007-2011), I firmly believe that Laura would make the best possible director of the DC ICH -- a position that was only created in later 2013 for an agency that has existed since June 2006. Laura has always proven to be accessible and responsive. She listens intently to all that the homeless have to say. She gives complete responses. She's not condescending. She takes immediate action to address a problem whenever possible, working on longer-term solutions soon thereafter. She doesn't suffer from the paralysis of analysis. When she knows she's right, she doesn't back down -- not even from a council person who is pummeling her with criticisms. Since being appointed by Bowser, Ms. Zeilinger has worked diligently to fix (if not altogether remake) DHS. She's got her hands full; but, she's pulling it off. Despite Laura's value in her current position, it stands to reason that Mayor Bowser needs to make Laura the director of the ICH in order to save her political future.

It's worth noting that my recommendation that Bowser make Laura her knew ICH director is based on Laura's ability and not meant to insinuate that current ICH Director Kristy Greenwalt is somehow incapable. Kristy should direct DHS, IMHO. My sense of Kristy is that she is developing a better understanding of how to communicate effectively with homeless people. She's becoming more receptive to the concerns articulated by the homeless and their advocates. She's becoming more keenly aware of the challenges she faces when it comes to making Homeward DC a reality. She is beginning to see the holes in the plan. She might even have taken notice of how quickly the general public is learning about the nuances of addressing homelessness -- a truth that will drive Bowser's re-election bid. The onus for bringing the mayor's primary campaign promise and pet project to fruition falls squarely on the shoulders of Kristy Greenwalt. Despite past disagreements, I actually feel for Kristy, come 2018 -- or for Laura if the two should trade places. Will they be able to make the mayor look good.....politically, of course??? DC Mayor Muriel Bowser MUST Make Homelessness "Rare, Brief and Non-Recurring"!!!!!

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Friday, January 29, 2016

M.U.W.W.A. F.O.C.K.A.: Meet Us Where We're At. Fostering Open Communication Kills Anger” -- KRISTY GREENWALT

Last updated on 2/5/16

Since I originally wrote the following blog post, DC Government has promised to meet with the homeless residents of the CCNV Shelter so as to discuss both its and their futures. See THIS ANNOUNCEMENT which I've begun to circulate at the shelter.
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Some time ago a certain DAVID who works for The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness (TCP) which oversees some of the city's shelters and homeless services gave a presentation about Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). I Noticed that David only spoke of the money that the city would save and said nothing about caring for his homeless clients and I politely confronted David during public comments. Some time later I spoke to Inter-agency Council on Homelessness director KRISTY GREENWALT about it.

KRISTY GREENWALT said:
“Ya gotta meet people where they're at.....whatever brings them to the table”.

Let's hold her to HER STATED PRINCIPLE as it pertains to involving homeless people in discussions about issues that affect them. Many of the homeless have an aggressive or defensive street manner which they've acquired as a means of surviving on the streets. After all, even DC had an innocent homeless man to get his head bashed in as he slept outdoors -- sadly, being one of many homeless people who fall victim to unprovoked attacks (often at the hands of youth ages 15 to 23 yrs old).

She's the same one who, in October 2015, called my cell phone to ask me not to predict that MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER was going to close CCNV. I edited my blog post in accordance with her request. Changing phrases like “I know” to “I believe” or “I'm guessing”. She didn't refute the facts that informed my guess and she's failed thus far to give an update on the future of CCNV – only telling me what not to say as she tries to make the mayor look good. I'll continue to press her for answers.

On January 23rd and 24th, 2016 -- during Winter Storm Jonas -- I spent much time at Union Station and walking the streets as far as 14th and I nw – zig-zagging into the places where I know homeless people to bed down. Beginning around 10 AM on the 23rd, I called LAURA ZEILINGER who is the director of the Dept. of Human Services to inform her that there were about 50 people in different parts of Union Station – many of whom hadn't eaten since the previous day. Being as Laura is quite accessible and responsive, she probably passed the word about these homeless people onto Kristy in hopes that Kristy would help get them fed. Kristy then took it upon herself to call me and let me know that I was getting in the way with my phone calls. (I'd spoken with Laura twice for a total of about 8 min.) Kristy and I spoke for at least 5 min. Go figure. She's was so busy but had time to call and tell me that BS. (On the 23rd I also mentioned the tent city near the station; but, was told by these homeless people on the 24th that no one had gone by that particular spot to offer any food.)

On the night of the 23rd in a text (to which she didn't respond) and in an e-mail since then, I informed Kristy that I found two homeless men that night who had not been found by the well-paid government employees who were out there looking. Upon listening to all of 20 seconds of a 9-minute video I'd made about homeless people in the station during the storm, Kristy jumped to the conclusion that I was disparaging her staff who “risked life and limb” to go into a snowstorm [which rendered 5 mph winds and had no lightning or thunder] – the same storm I walked in to get from Union Station to 14th and I (about 1.5 miles, as the crow flies). Hmmm. When I informed her that I was actually walking in the storm (not riding a humvee) and found two people that her staff missed, all she could do was send me a condescending e-mail telling me that I shouldn't have been out there because the mayor had given orders to shelter in place. Not so much as a “Thank you for risking YOUR life and I'm glad you found people we missed”. That's when I was firmly convinced that she's problem. That's not to speak of how many people think she takes to long to get anything done and suffers (or actually causes the homeless to suffer) from the paralysis of ANALysis.

I was dead serious when I suggested holding her to her stated principle of "meeting people where they're at" and of doing "whatever brings them to the table" (which, in the case of the homeless, means providing food). On March 8th there will be an ICH meeting at the 801 East Shelter. I'll do what I can to get at least 50 homeless people to there. I have a month to make it happen and will make a speech to 200 homeless people on February 28th, during which I'll circulate info about it. She hasn't heard the last of me. I hope she hears you too.

To contact Kristy Greenwalt:

Call: 202-304-8318 or 202-957-6878 or her office at 202-727-2823 (ICH Info line: 202-724-1338)

Next full council meeting: 3/8/16 at 2 PM at 801 Men's East Shelter (St Elizabeth Hospital grounds)
I hope to see at least 50 homeless people there. I'll post another flier in addition to THIS 2-SIDED FLIER about my M.U.W.W.A.  F.O.C.K.A. initiative when we're closer to the date. Will print and post this one soon.

In an effort to better document various homeless advocacy efforts that I've been a part of, I am hyperlinking THIS SET OF PDF's into a number of blog posts.

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