Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Poverty Politics: Mayor Muriel Bowser -- Part IV of IV in 20-yr. Plan to Gentrify DC

Councilwoman Muriel Bowser won DC's Democratic mayoral primary yesterday. She will face off with Councilman David Catania (Independent – at-large) in November with him being a strong contender for the mayor's seat. I'm inclined to believe that Catania will do less harm to and possibly more good for the poor of our nation's capital than Bowser will do. But this is a Democratic city and since “Home Rule” was passed in 1973, the winner of the Democratic primary has become mayor. Pity.

But, as I said in my blog post yesterday, who becomes the chief executive doesn't determine the direction of the city. In much the same way that the primary job of the sheriff of Philadelphia is to evict people from their homes, the primary job of the mayor of Washington, DC is to push poor people out of the city through a mix of draconian policies. I see a 20-year plan which was devised by the business community behind closed doors coming to fruition. Mayor Anthony Williams (1999-2007) started the ball rolling. Mayor Adrian Fenty (2007-2011) was slightly more draconian toward the poor. Mayor Vince Gray (2011-2015) is the worst of the three. Unless she breaks the pattern, Ms. Bowser would be the fourth and final part of the business community's plan.

Muriel Bowser was a Fenty shoe-in. She was a personal friend of Fenty's who gained his council seat when he became mayor. All of this raises the question of which way Muriel Bowser will swing if she wins in November. Will she become anything like Adrian Fenty whose protege she is or continue the downward spiral by becoming even more draconian than Mayor Gray??? Even if she attempts to become “a woman apart”, she's liable to be bought and paid for by the behind-the-scenes but ever-powerful forces in the business community – and this in spite of her role in passing legislation to create a code of ethics for the DC Council. It therefore behooves the local advocacy community to court the present and most likely future mayors – Gray (71) so as to help him seal his legacy by doing good for the city's poor, thus checking another item off of his political bucket list; Bowser so as to prep her for the daunting task of assisting the city's poor and to feed her some ideas.

It is important to note that there was another primary election yesterday whose result more directly affects the city's poor. Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham who chairs the Human Services Oversight Committee (a city-wide, at-large committee that oversees the delivery of social services to the poor) lost to political newby Brianne Nadeau. He also chairs the CCNV/Federal City Shelter Task Force which held its first meeting in October 2013, will be dissolved in July 2014 and will offer suggestions to the council and the lame-duck mayor as to what should be done to the facility and its 1,350 homeless people – slightly under one-fifth of DC's homeless population. This raises a few questions: When the mayor receives the task force's recommendations, will he make a decision before leaving office??? Will the new mayor honor that decision or make a new one??? If the project is not budget-neutral, will the new council adequately fund the mayor's proposal???

But irrespective of who wins any of the races in November, the advocates need to inundate them with our demands, hold their feet to the fire and ensure that they keep their campaign promises. We need to step up our advocacy in other ways as well. Consider this analogy:

The average person eats four pounds of food per day. The government has been providing a certain poor person with one pound per day. The mayor decides to cut two more ounces from this pound but threatens to cut four. The advocates succeed at getting the council to return two ounces, bringing it to the figure that the mayor intended all along. These 14 ounces of food per day are still woefully inadequate but represent a smaller cut than was initially threatened. The advocates feel useful. The council seems effective at mitigating some of the mayor's draconian policies. The mayor seems less cruel and willing to budge. All of them maintain their employment. But the poor person still doesn't have anything close to what they need.

The point of the analogy is this: We need not compare the council's final decision (cutting two ounces) to the mayor's initial threat (cutting four ounces). We need to compare the final result (14 ounces of food/ day) to the actual need (four pounds/ day). Furthermore, we need to stop merely reacting to the mayor's budget and start putting forth our vision of a just city and what its poorest, most vulnerable citizens should have access to on any given day. Lets stop being reactive and start being pro-active. On that note, I'll be communicating with the aforementioned politicians within 24 hours so as to begin the conversation around how they'll serve the homeless for the remainder of this year on into next year.

Hhyperlinks to be added later, as I'm pressed for time.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Poverty Politics: DC -- A City for the Wealthy and Well-To-Do (Not the Poor)

QUESTION: What does the story of a missing 8-year old homeless girl named RELISHA RUDD (who was failed by several DC Government agencies) have to do with the business community's government-sanctioned plan to rid the city of poor people?

ANSWER: A .lot. It may take a while to get to the answer but we will. Read on.....

My greatest struggle as a homeless advocate is getting the homeless or formerly homeless to take a break from their many direct actions so as to do some political analysis of the conditions that we're up against. The fact of the matter is that, so long as our ability to analyze societal conditions falls short of what is required to overcome these conditions, they'll continue to get the better of us.

So, today is April 1st -- April Fools' Day. Washington, DC's Democratic primary is taking place today, with the mayor being up for re-election. Some may write that off as mere coincidence. I know otherwise. With this being a Democratic city, the Democratic primary is usually the de facto election. But with Councilman David Catania (independent--at large) being a strong mayoral contender in the November election, this year may be an exception to the rule. And just like fools, many Washingtonians seem to be under the impression that who they elect as mayor actually determines the direction of the city. Mayor Vince Gray seems to be one such fool -- assuming he actually believes what he says.

In recent speeches the mayor, who is under federal investigation for campaign finance fraud, has touted the city's current financial health as an accomplishment of his administration. But surveys have indicated that some Washingtonians believe that the direction of the city is not dependent on who the chief executive is. I agree with the results of the surveys.

Much like Chicago, this city is controlled by forces that operate behind the scenes. The mayor is just the front (wo)man for a business community that is about 15 years into a 20-year plan to push poor people out of a city that many of them have called home for a very long time. And as far as I can tell, they're well ahead of schedule. On the other hand, dozens of city officials and homeless service providers adopted a 10-year plan to end homelessness in 2004 and scrapped that plan several years later due to their failure to meet benchmarks. That said, we are not on track to end homelessness in the city by year's end.
The city council has passed business-friendly laws that attract high-end businesses to the city. The last three mayors have made it their business to push the poor out of the city through their draconian policies and use of the bully pulpit to sway public sentiment concerning poor people. But it is the business community that pulls the strings.

Mayor Anthony Williams (Jan. 1999 to Jan. 2007) convinced the council that they should eliminate the "rent cap" which created a ceiling for rent levels and replace it with "rent control" which allows rent to be raised at a fixed rate. But the parts of this law that were ostensibly intended to soften its negative impact on poor people have no teeth and there are so many loopholes that the rent doubles every ten years and over 40,000 Afro-Americans left DC between 2000 and 2010 -- namely due to the increased rent. It has been determined more recently that about 3,000 poor (mainly Afro-American) people per month are leaving this city due to the high cost of living while just over 4,000 (mainly non-Black) high income earners move in.

During Williams' last year in office, the council passed the Inclusionary Zoning law which requires that 8 to 10% of all new residential developments be affordable to middle- and low-income people. The law has caveats that allow many developers to obtain waivers and very little affordable housing has been created by this law in the seven and a half years it's been on the books. Also during his term, a sweat equity law that would have allowed people to rehabilitate depressed properties and move in was rejected by the council. Five years and much public pressure later, Mayor Gray instituted a government-administered "sweat equity" program through which the heads of homeless families were trained in the construction trades while renovating a building which they would then be allowed to live in for three years.

After Williams there was Adrian Fenty (2007 to 2011). He closed two shelters and created two housing programs for which he didn't create long-term funding streams. In the case of both the DC Village Family Shelter and the Franklin School Shelter he said they were "unfit for human habitation". In the latter case he also said that he didn't want to "warehouse homeless people in large shelters". The Franklin School Shelter had 300 men on two floors of the 5-story building. The CCNV/Federal City Shelter has 1,350 people but he made no mention of plans to close it. Franklin School (built in 1869) is in the heart of Downtown DC and surrounded by new development. Many of the advocates who were around in 2008 when the shelter was closed believe that the business community (led by Downtown BID) was behind the shelter closure.

Homeless families were given the impression that they'd receive rental assistance indefinitely but now are being given assistance for only four months with the possibility of receiving two extensions -- 12 months of assistance. Some see no point in leaving shelter because they'll never make the $89,000 per year that a family needs in order to live in DC. Many of the homeless singles who were placed in the city's Permanent Supportive Housing Program are being transferred over to federal vouchers with a lingering threat of having those vouchers cut. It is also difficult to get any information from the city on attrition rates for what is left of PSH.

Mayor Vince Gray is the most overtly anti-poor mayor that I've met during my nine years in DC. Both he and Fenty have told lies of omission or emission to the public concerning the poor; but, Gray has gone so far as to accuse homeless families of gaming the system in order to get free room and board as well as other amenities. He had Deputy Mayor Beatriz "BB" Otero to begin that narrative in an April 30th, 2013 e-mail to dozens of advocates. At this point, several other members of his administration have used that narrative -- including Director of the Dept. of Human Services David Berns who is also on the record as saying that he can't end homelessness.

David Berns has told me that, while it's cheaper to house a homeless family ($15,000/yr) than it is to shelter them ($50,000+/yr), it's actually cheaper to shelter homeless individuals who don't have mental or physical handicaps than it is to house them. This begins to explain why the city has finally begun an effort to house homeless families, though we can't ignore all of the public pressure that's been applied. it's a fiscal decision, not a moral one.

What could DC Government possibly know about morals? They disinvest in public housing and allow it to fall into disrepair, only to have police Chief Cathy Lanier say that public housing is the worst thing to happen to poor people in lieu of the disrepair. I told her, in response, that it is now the government -- not the banks -- doing the "red-lining". Poor people in various developments (government- and business-owned) are told to move out of their units during renovations and that they'll have the right to return at the same rent levels, only to have those promises broken time and time again. We have Arthur Capper, Kelsey Gardens and Temple Court just to name a few.

But DC's failures toward the poor community extend far beyond issues of shelter and housing. The sad account of RELISHA RUDD is just another chapter in this ongoing saga of DC's systemic failure of the poor. Her mother was visited by Child Protective Services due to 1 -- having filthy living quarters, 2 -- having insufficient food in the house, 3 -- failure to provide necessary medical attention and 4 -- child abuse. Her kids weren't removed. If any effort was made to improve her parenting skills, it didn't work. Now her eldest child is missing and presumed dead with her having released the girl into the custody of someone who should never have had time alone with the girl. He's since killed his wife and himself.

This story wreaks of incompetency on the part of CPS and is reminiscent of the Banita Jacks case in which a poor Afro-American woman was reported to CPS, allowed to keep her four girls and ended up killing them as early as May 2007 with police finding the bodies in her freezer in January 2008. I personally know a grandmother whose 5-year old grandson has asthma and epilepsy. The boy's mother left him in a mall parking lot at four years old. police found him. He was given by CPS to the grandmother for 11 months and returned to the mother who still uses drugs and leaves him home alone. The grandmother fears for his life. Could this be micro-genocide/democide at the local level???

Denise Gibson was taken away from her mother at age 6 in 1990 due to her mother having become homeless. She aged out of foster care in 2005 and became homeless. Her year-old daughter was taken away. She had a son in February 2011 and he was homeless for his first month of life. The Washington Post patted DC Government on the back for housing Denise in late 2011. The Huffington Post wrote a more accurate response article which blamed DC Government for not interrupting the cycle of generational poverty.

Only about half of DC students (51%) have graduated in recent years. 36% of Washingtonian adults are functionally illiterate. 90% of Washingtonian adults have diplomas. If 90% have diplomas and only 64% are functionally literate, then 26% are being given diplomas that they didn't earn. It's been determined that 68% of jobs in DC require an education beyond high school but only 25% of Washingtonians received an education beyond high school. This is the same school system that failed to report RELISHA RUDD's absences to police until she'd been missing for over three weeks.

Several years ago Councilman Marion Barry began a poverty commission that didn't get far. He was supposedly going to figure out how to combat poverty in DC; but, he was censured for seemingly unrelated reasons and had his committee assignment taken away. Since then, no one in DC Government has taken up the cause.

As the conversation around the future of the CCNV/Federal City Shelter continues, I see that the concerns of the business community are moving to the fore and slowly replacing the concerns of the homeless community -- the latter of which is quite disenfranchised and often won't stand up for itself. The process has not evolved enough for me to definitively point the finger; but CCNV, like Franklin School, is also in the part of town covered by Downtown BID. This is cause for concern.

Taken together, these considerations paint a grim picture of there being a concerted effort within the ranks of DC Government and the business community to push the poor out of DC. Create laws that cause the rent to skyrocket. Disinvest in public housing. Close shelters only to disinvest in the housing programs that replaced them. Disinvest in public education. Allow incompetency to reign supreme for years on end within Child Protective Services. Take poor families and color them bad. Break promises to allow former residents to return to renovated properties. Veil your desire to push poor people out of the city in a facade of caring i.e. closing "uninhabitable dwellings" without one-for-one replacement. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

I asked, "What does the story of a missing 8-year old homeless girl named RELISHA RUDD (who was failed by several DC Government agencies) have to do with the business community's government-sanctioned plan to rid the city of poor people?" Simply put, if you fail to adequately deliver much-needed social services to the same poor community that you failed to properly educate and who can't compete in the local job market, they'll leave the city out of necessity. James Earl Jones might just put it like this: "If you tear it down, they will leave".

Now maybe you've begun to see why some people refer to "urban renewal" as "negro removal". It's not that Afro-Americans don't like nice things. It's that we can't afford to remain after those "nice things" are built in our neighborhoods.

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Improving Homeless and Housing Advocacy

We have a crafty, if not altogether dishonest, mayor who (like his predecessor) preys on the public's ignorance of the homeless issue and other issues. He and much of his administration are using the “mooching homeless family” narrative time and time again. That is to say that they are claiming that the heads of homeless families are accessing homeless services during hypothermia season so that they can receive free hotel rooms, food, transportation etc.Even though the advocates often have and use opportunities for rebuttal, much of the general public is liable to buy into the government's narrative and the mayor has the bully mic. Let's not forget that, at the end of the day, it is the administration that determines how DC's funds are spent.

During the February 11, 2012 One City Summit, Vince Gray talked about DC being one of the most literate cities in the U.S. Just a couple of weeks prior and a few days apart there had been two articles about DC literacy. One said that DC was among the most literate U.S. Cities insomuch as it has many libraries, bookstores, places that offer free internet access and other literary resources. The other said that 36% of adults in DC are functionally illiterate. Vince Gray forgot to mention the latter. He told a lie of omission to the public.

A couple of years ago, Vince Gray said that he wouldn't vie for higher taxes on the wealthy because the wealthy don't want to pay higher taxes in order to fund social services for the poor and needy among us. The DC Fiscal Policy Institute conducted a survey among those who earn at least $100,000 per year. 85% of respondents said that DC Government should go ahead and raise their taxes. This flies in the face of the mayor's uninformed assumption and proves that he's willing to fabricate lies and/or unproven statements about his constituents whom he obviously doesn't know well.

Former Mayor Adrian Fenty used the “unfit for human habitation” narrative to close two shelters and begin two housing programs which he didn't guarantee would have indefinite funding streams. He also broke a lot of promises and preyed on the public's ignorance of the homeless issue. Nonetheless, his director of DHS, Clarence Carter, was given more latitude to think for himself than the present director, David Berns, is given by Vince Gray. In hind sight, I believe Fenty was the better mayor.

One of the biggest fights that the advocates had with Fenty prior to the economic downturn which was felt most severely in the fall of 2008 was the fight to get him to offer sufficient wrap-around services to the vulnerable homeless who were housed during the closing of the Franklin School Shelter. I'll take that over what the Gray administration is presently doing to families.

When the aforementioned issues are juxtaposed, a pattern emerges. We've gone from having a mayor who preys on the public's ignorance of an issue by using a semi-accurate narrative and provides housing with insufficient services and funding to having a mayor who preys on the public's ignorance of an issue by presenting an altogether dishonest narrative, tries to diminish the public's sympathy for the needy, makes an errant claim that the wealthy lack enough sympathy to assist the need through higher taxes, scares the needy out of applying for services, vilifies the needy, makes the services that he offers very uncomfortable and unattractive and then houses whoever endures all of his draconian antics.

That said, the last two administrations have refused to make a good-faith effort to house homeless singles who are ready, willing and able to work. All of this leaves me to wonder what the next mayor will do. I can't help but notice that Gray is much more dictatorial and capable of getting all of his administration singing the same song – the song of the lazy, shiftless homeless person. This is all the more cause for concern.

Now that I've begun to build the case for my assertion that the government whom the advocates approach for redress of grievances is doing all that it can to avoid making DC affordable or attractive to the poor, I'll address some of the shortcomings of the advocacy community as seen from my bird's-eye view. The preceding paragraphs comprise a mere sample of the type of analysis that is necessary if we are going to effectively make demands on the government and have those demands met. Unfortunately, most of the homeless or formerly-homeless advocates that I've met don't want to engage in this level of critical thinking, leaving me to publish such analyses on my own. This lends itself to me being seen as a dictator of sorts; because, I'm the only one trying to bring greater analysis to what the advocates do – or so it seems.

I've accused DC Government and its ICH (Inter-agency Council on Homelessness) of failing to devise an over-arching and comprehensive plan for ending all homelessness in the District. They tend to work in separate silos and, when it comes to ending homelessness for able-bodied, single adults who just need a little help, they avoid that like the plague. But many of the advocates also fail to formulate an over-arching approach for addressing government – one that takes into consideration what the motives of government officials and elected officials are and proceeds to come up with a comprehensive plan for putting their backs against the wall. As Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand; It never has and it never will”. I would add that such demands must be logical, viable and set forth with a concerted effort.

Some fellow advocates want an explanation for certain recent behaviors of mine. I'm glad to offer that explanation. Unfortunately, there are those who have proceeded to make assumptions about my thought process without asking me my thoughts first. What's worse is that a few of them have TOLD me what they assume I'm thinking while giving me little or no opportunity to explain myself. Neither makes any sense.

I'll offer this explanation:

I, Eric Jonathan Sheptock, began advocating for the homeless in June 2006. I became the chairman of the group that eventually named itself “SHARC” in April 2011. As chairman, I filed a FOIA request with the federal government in January 2013 in order to gather information on the property rights pertaining to the Federal City Shelter. Other SHARC members came on-board and put a lot of hours into bringing the future of the 1,350-person facility to the forefront.

Even so, many advocates are more concerned with organizing actions that amount to shouting down city officials than they are with construing and presenting strong logic that backs government officials against the wall and calls their bluff. My personal contributions to the campaign around the Federal City Shelter have focused on presenting strong logic and getting other homeless people to come to the table to present their reasoning as well.

I've become keenly aware of the fact that I got off on the wrong foot in 2006 by joining forces with the “shouting advocates” rather than the “reasoning advocates” It was an easy mistake and I'm sure that I'm not the only one to make it. I've learned a lot over the past eight years and am now trying whole-heartedly to incorporate that knowledge into what I do as an advocate.

In recent months I've attempted to get other advocates to make the switch from emotional advocacy to logical advocacy. In some instances I've unabashedly disparaged the emotional “shouting advocates”. In any instance, I'm doing my best to distance myself from any irrational approach to advocacy and connect myself to a more logical, analytical lot of advocates. I'm sure that when I am the lone voice crying for a more logical approach it comes off as being a bit dictatorial. I'll wear that. But I refuse to just plan action after action without any analysis of the capitalist system and am reluctant to involve myself in actions that are organized by groups that fail to articulate a social theory, preferably an anti-capitalist one.

I am struggling to strike a balance between the idea of not involving myself in actions that aren't part of an organized, long-term campaign which is the result of proper analysis and the idea of continuing to communicate with my long-time fellow advocates who don't seem to want to make the switch. There is a tension between wanting to use logic (as opposed to emotion) on the one hand and wanting to continue associating with certain fellow advocates on the other hand. I've decided that, for the moment, I'll maintain my connections and avoid dismissing anyone. Nonetheless, there will come a time when I'll dismiss anyone who can't or won't make the switch.

That said, there is very little room to find any middle ground, as the government's ability to reason (how ever evil its direction might be) gives government the upper hand on the emotional camp. Circumstances beyond our control dictate that we must rise to the challenges of homeless and housing advocacy in ways that many may dislike. If we fail in this capacity, we'll find ourselves running into that proverbial brick wall for decades to come. I refuse to be a part of any such colossal failure.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Housing One-Fifth of DC's 7,000 Homeless in One Fell Swoop?!

On October 31st, 2013 the CCNV Task Force which is headed by DC Councilman Jim Graham will meet on the 3rd floor (3-North) of CCNV which is located at 425 2nd Street NW, Washington, DC. It is located right on the edge of Capitol Hill and is metro accessible, being 2 blocks from the Judiciary Square Metro Station and 3 blocks from Union Station (both on the Red Line). The D6 bus stops right in front of the shelter (as long as the driver doesn't refuse to do so). The meeting is open to the public.

Here's a brief account of what got us to this point.....

The Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV) homeless shelter was established in the 1980's by Vietnam-era veterans who'd renounced violence, thus the name. Through the direct action of Mitch Snyder and dozens of homeless people (many young and old veterans being homeless even in this day and age), a vacant federal building was wrested from the Reagan administration and given to DC Government with strings attached. The building would have to serve homeless people for at least 30 years beginning on July 7th, 1986. If the city complied with this and others terms until at least July 7th, 2016 they would gain full ownership of the building and could do as the please with it.

SHARC (Shelter, Housing And Respectful Change), the group of homeless advocates of which I'm the chairman, has brought the impending end of the federal covenant to the forefront and asked city officials what their plans are for the property and its 1,350 residents come 2016. We did the research, sent it to DC Councilman Jim Graham who oversees the Dept. of Human Services, attended a hearing that was convened by Mr. Graham, did outreach to get others to the hearing and are now involved in the task force process.

During the June 27th CCNV hearing, about a dozen homeless people and a few homeless service providers testified about services offered within the building, needed improvements to services, additional services that should be offered, maintenance problems and the behavior of staff. The Dept. of Human Services (DHS) and the Dept. of General Services (DGS) which maintains DC Government buildings were also there. But the one major decision to come out of the hearing was the decision to create the CCNV Task Force.

The task force has at least 16 members not counting the chairman, Councilman jim Graham. Half have voting power and the other half are ex-officio members who lack voting power. I'm an ex-officio member. As it turns out, most of those who have voting power (5) have neither been homeless nor worked closely with the homeless. On the other hand, most of the ex-officio members (6) HAVE either been homeless or worked closely with the homeless. The homeless and their advocates find this to be a disappointing way of appointing people to positions. We continue to raise our voices concerning this matter. But it also begs the question: "What was the rationale for determining who would or wouldn't have voting power on the CCNV Task Force?????"

The task force held its first meeting on October 8th during which we primarily discussed the task force process and why we were all there. The second meeting will take place on October 31st. (See first paragraph.) This meeting will address legal issues. We'll need to look at the Mckinney-Vento Act, a federal law pertaining to the delivery of homeless services. That law was created by Mitch Snyder and company. Some of the lawyers who fought for the homeless in the 1980's and were instrumental in creating that law are still practicing and are involved with the task force and with SHARC. We also need to look at paperwork pertaining to the transfer of property from the federal government to DC Government. There is the original paperwork from 1986 and there are 2 quitclaim deeds from 1991 and 1993. This should be fun. (I say that sarcastically.)

It is important to note that all else which the task force does will flow from what is determined tomorrow, though chances are that we won't fully address all legal issues in this one meeting. But whenever we adequately address legal issues, we'll then be able to formulate a legally realistic vision for the property and its residents.

The task force as a body is several steps behind SHARC and others in its thought process. I guess that's to be expected. So, the task force has not stated its desire or even a possible vision for the property or the people in it. SHARC, on the other hand, has learned that it's feasible that we could build 2 buildings which have a total of 800,000 square feet on the property.

We've even taken it a bit further by doing the math. If we estimate that 10% of the square footage will go toward halls, stairwells, utility rooms and the like, that leaves 720,000 sq. ft. of usable space. We want 80% of that space to be used for affordable housing for the homeless (residents of CCNV and the Federal City Shelter) and 20% to be used for homeless services and retail. (All new DC buildings must be multi-purpose by law.) That means that 576,000 would go toward housing the homeless and 144,000 sq. ft. would go toward other homeless services and retail. With 576,000 sq. ft. for housing, we could create 640 units at 900 sq. ft. each; create 960 units at 66 sq. ft. each or create 1,440 units at 400 sq. ft. each (which is very small). In the end, the zoning commission decides how many units can be put into a new development. I'm banking on the 640-unit figure or something close to it; but, I'd be ecstatic if they allowed 960 units to be built there.

In any instance, any plan to close the CCNV/FCS Shelter would have to include housing at least 1,350 people. We'll house as many as possible in the new development and would need to find places throughout the city to house the difference.

In closing I'll say that this is the next chapter of the Mitch Snyder-CCNV saga. In the 1980's the story of how this shelter was created made national headlines. Stars such as Martin Sheen, Whoopi Goldberg and Cher got involved. PBS broadcasts aired "Promises to Keep",an hour-long documentary around the world. The lingering effects of what Mitch and others did over 25 years ago include the McKinney-Vento Homeless Services Act which was renamed the H.E.A.R.T.H. (Homeless Emergency Assistance, Rapid Transition to Housing) Act and signed by Barack Obama on May 20th, 2009. But tucked neatly away with the Act is a thing called Title V. Title V gives local homeless services first dibs at any federal property that becomes surplus. Homeless service providers are first in the pecking order -- before the state government or local government and before the right of first refusal kicks in or the property goes on the open market. Unfortunately, Title V is grossly underused with only 85 of the 70,000 vacant federal properties having been acquired through this mechanism since the law was created in 1987. The CCNV/Federal City Shelter was the first property transferred under Title V. What happens with CCNV therefore sets a precedent for all other Title V properties. Mitch and company gave us a lot. His is a big pair of shoes to fill. Nevertheless, we must keep pressing on -- not just for things that will help the homeless in the immediate such as food, clothing and shelter; but also for an end to homelessness through the creation of living-wage jobs and affordable housing.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

DC Mayor Vincent Gray's Promise of Affordable Housing

This article about mayor Gray's "effort" to create affordable housing appeared in today's City Paper: . In began to send an e-mail response to my associates here in DC; but, then it occurred to me that my e-mail was, in essence, a blog post. So, after reading the article, read my post below.....

Gray has committed to the creation of 10,000 units of affordable housing by 2020 (5 years after the term that he's serving ends, with there being uncertainty as to whether or not he'll win in 2014 or be able to complete a second term, being in his 70"s).

While I commend his "effort", his math is way off. $100M for 10,000 units comes out to $10,000 per unit, with the cost of creating a single apartment unit in DC exceeding $100,000. The article says that it would take $500M to $1 billion to keep his promise. I also made that point during the March 5th Press Conference on Poverty which took place in the Wilson Building (City Hall). One of the people quoted in the article called it "a wonderful down payment". So, we'll take it for what it's worth.

I take issue with this quote though: "Our vision is simple and aspirational: The District of Columbia is a city that provides housing that is affordable for all who wish to live and work here," I'm left to wonder how many of the jobs in DC pay considerably lower than $30/hr ($60,000/yr.) which is the amount required to live in DC where the rent averages $1,600/month. Is Gray going to make housing affordable for every McDonald's employee and carpenter's helper? After all, such jobs contribute to the life of the city.

The answer may be encrypted into the article, though it's not hard to find if you're paying attention -- and doing the math. Mayor Gray plans to create 3,000 units of market-rate housing every year through 2020. he plans to create 10,000 units of affordable housing by 2020. That means that in the seven years that it takes to create 10,000 units of affordable housing, he will have created 21,000 units of market-rate housing. So, the low-wage worker is still being squeezed out of DC -- at the end of the workday, after they've contributed to the life of the city.

I qualify my last statement with a few facts. Over 7,000 of DC's 620,000 residents (about 1 in 90) is homeless. About 70,000 people were recently on the DC Housing Authority's wait list. At least 100,000 families in the city are rent-burdened, paying more than one-third of their income in rent. At least 50,000 of those families are extremely rent-burdened, paying at least half of their income in rent. Recent stats have indicated that a net gain of about 1,100 new residents per month (13,200 per year) are moving to DC which means that there is a lot of high-end development taking place in addition to the 3,000 units per year that Gray is proposing.

So, whether you compare Gray's 1,428 units of affordable housing per year to the thousands of market rate units going up every year or to the large and growing number of needy, homeless and rent-burdened people, it's just a drop in the bucket. But as I said earlier, we'll take it for what it's worth.

All of this talk about affordable housing raises the question: "How do we define the ambiguous phrase 'affordable housing'" Many of the homeless and housing advocates will tell you that you shouldn't need to spend more that 30% of your income on rent. But that still doesn't answer the question of what income bracket mayor Gray will cater to with this pot of money. his budget director said (off the record) on March 5th that the mayor is focused on helping those that make 30% or less of the AMI (area median income) which stands at around $110,000 in the DC Metro area right now. But his statements were not reflected in the article. Let's hope that he's right.

Here is the Fairbudget Coalition's list of recommendations on how gray should spend the $100M:

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fiscal Cliff or Congressional Black Hole?

So, we're going over the "fiscal cliff" in February or March and Congress is ostensibly "trying" (notice I didn't say "working") to soften the impact. This analogy raises the questions: What type of vehicle were we in as we went over the fiscal cliff -- a car, bus, train, hang glider? Were we using dangerously long bungee cords or sufficiently short ones? How far is the fall? What's at the bottom? And is there a steep slope that we bump along until we hit the bottom or does the precipice protrude at the top, allowing for a free fall? All of this will determine how badly we get hurt -- or worse.

I prefer to think of the debacle called the U.S. Congress (the 535 people and ALL that they do, not just their most recent failed effort) as a "black hole". We pay taxes to them, though not necessarily by choice. Congress then spends most of their time and much of our money on legislation that benefits an elite few of us. Congress is like a black hole that is sucking in (taxing) everything around it that crosses its event horizon (national borders and foreign interests) and condensing that matter into a smaller and smaller space (legislating for the benefit of the wealthy elite -- the capitalists).

But so much for analogies -- for now. I'm appalled by the failure of the general public to see the fiscal cliff fight for what it really is -- a smoke screen. After all, in the summer of 2012 Congress MADE the legislation which they later referred to as the fiscal cliff. In their "defense" (a word they're in love with), I'll say that they had to do something about the burgeoning U.S. deficit. (However, they also have a "deficit of reason".) That said, Congress:

1 -- Developed "Plan A" which included budget sequestration and increased taxes
2 -- Tried to come up with a "Plan B" so as to avoid implementing THEIR OWN "Plan A"
3 -- Labeled "Plan A" the "fiscal cliff", sending the world economy into an uproar
4 -- Came up with a stop-gap measure that will need to be revisited and resolved before March 2013
5 -- Convened the 113th Congress with 150 new members.

(I'm left to wonder if, on some level, causing the world to worry (with the U.S. dollar being the world's reserve currency) isn't just a show of power -- asserting the essential roles of the U.S. Congress and currency in the world.)

While considering the recent "acts" of Congress, let us also remember the inter-generational congressional and presidential trends which got us to this point, namely "Reaganomics", Bush-era tax breaks and the Keynesian Theory (the idea that giving tax dollars to "employers" will, in turn, boost the economy). The government has given tax breaks to corporations, ostensibly so that they would create jobs -- thus increasing the tax base and decreasing the number of people who need government benefits. But this "Trickle-Down Theory", as it's often called, has not had its intended(?) effects. Then again, consider the definitions of a "trickle" and a "theory", not to speak of the fact that the corporations that receive this "corporate welfare" look "down" on the poor and the powerless who need jobs and/or benefits.

While the need for social services for the employed, unemployed and unemployable has increased and governments nationwide are decreasing the amount of money that they spend on social services (including unemployment benefits). This ONLY BEGINS to explain the unfriendly environment that our elected officials have been creating for the under-privileged. But, like a frog in slowly-boiling water, Americans remain in the pot and fail to see their certain death as it approaches.

That aside, I'm reminded of one of the reasons behind the American Civil War of the 1860's. I hate to break it to you (LOL), but the North's decision to combat the slavery of the South wasn't due entirely (if at all) to an attack of conscience. The North had paid labor. The South had unpaid labor. Both were trading with Great Britain. The North couldn't sell for as a low a price as the South and wanted to force the South to raise its prices by paying its labor. (There's an upside to Capitalism after all, huh?)

Today, rather than the paid labor of the north competing with the unpaid labor of the south, we have the poorly-paid American labor force competing with the worse-paid or (virtually) unpaid labor of other nations with their sweat shops and slave camps. (That's not to discount the fact that we have home-grown slave drivers in this country too, many of whom prey on the homeless and on undocumented workers.)

American labor rights have become subject to the austere conditions created by globalization. Rather than paying Americans a "living wage", giving them benefits such as health coverage or employing them at all, corporations can just take their(?) business overseas where they force people to work long ours for very little pay and no benefits and then ship the goods to America so that they can be sold to those whose jobs were taken overseas (or filled by robots).

All things considered, it is virtually impossible for ANY national government -- in and of itself -- or the impotent United Nations to arrest the process whereby the world economy is devolving into total chaos and decadence; because, no single government has the level of authority needed to force corporations or other employers worldwide to pay a living wage. (Trying to get the G-20 nations to "agree" on a solution would likely be even more chaotic than 10 U.S. congressional sessions.) All of this just goes to show that our congressional black hole has been sucked into the even larger and "denser" one created by the globalized economy.

While his power to change the world economy is very limited, President Obama DOES HAVE the power -- if he'll use it -- to turn the black hole of Congress into a "neutron star" (see: Big Bang Theory) that sends its hyper-condensed elements outward in all directions. As a lame-duck president, he is no longer obliged to be a people pleaser and more inclined to state his true intentions. Many Americans have wished Obama would make like Bush 43 and man-handle Congress -- but for the right reasons and with the right agenda. Obama hinted that he had a hidden agenda during a conversation with the Russian president some time ago. Maybe it includes man-handling Congress. One can only hope.

Let's see what he says to the new congress in the coming days and what he discloses during his upcoming inauguration and State of the Union Address. Will he give Congress a hard talk, remind them of their duty to the American people, instill in them a sense of congressional principle and show that he'll be unswerving in his determination to "fix" Congress? Once again, one can only hope.

But, before we leave this topic altogether, it is important to note that Congress is a black hole in yet another way, making this a perfect analogy: They are condensing people's ability to do any critical thinking into the congress, further condensing it into a few key congressional figures and using it in ways that ignore (or hurt) the masses. America is becoming dumber by the day, as the quality of our educational system decreases, less people even have access to (low-quality) higher education, hierarchically-minded people exhibit blind faith in a system that doesn't have their best interests at heart, they are told WHAT to think instead of HOW to think and they are conditioned to obey authority without question. By the time that a critical mass of Americans realizes what we should have been doing all along, it will be too late to do it and America will have advanced too far down the path toward destruction to be saved. Such a time may already be upon us. Let's hope not.

INTERESTING FACTS: Unemployment benefits were created due to the efforts of the Detroit auto industry, with Detroit also being where many freed or escaped slaves went in the 19th century. The city has a history and character of "saving the oppressed laborer". It was also hit hard during the "Great Recession" and has yet to recover.

PEACE (for now). Out.

Eric Jonathan Sheptock
Chairman of SHARC
(Shelter, Housing And Respectful Change)
Cell phone: (240) 305-5255
425 2nd St. NW
Washington, DC 20001-2003

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

SHARC's efforts to meet with Mayor Gray

It is the mission of SHARC to engage the poor, homeless, formerly homeless, community activists and concerned citizens in advocacy efforts for the poor and under-privileged community with an emphasis on self-advocacy.

SHARC's efforts to meet with Mayor Gray

Below is an article which I recently wrote and am trying to have published. It describes the trouble that DC homeless advocates are having getting a meeting with Mayor Vincent Gray. I delivered hard copies to the Washington Post and the Examiner on December 10th, 2012. On December 11th Mayor Gray was the first mayor to visit an Inter-agency Council on Homelessness (ICH) meeting. On that day I got a card from his special assistant as the mayor told me to set up a meeting through him. hopefully this will cause things to take a turn for the better.....

To whom it may concern,

I am Eric Jonathan Sheptock, a relatively well-known homeless advocate in Washington, DC. Since I began advocating in June 2006 in opposition to former mayor Anthony Williams' failed attempt to close the Franklin School Shelter, I've been featured in the media for various reasons ranging from specific campaigns aimed at helping the homeless and creating affordable housing to my use of the internet and social media to advocate and do popular education on the causes of and solutions to homelessness.

As it turns out, homelessness can not be abolished without a sufficient amount of political will. It is for that reason that SHARC (Shelter, Housing And Respectful Change), the group of homeless advocates of which I'm the chairman visited the mayor's Community Affairs office on November 1st, 2012 and filled out an application to meet with the mayor. I've included a timeline of events surrounding SHARC's attempts to meet with the mayor below. But before you read it, here are some additional matters for you to consider:

Many advocates for the poor and homeless believe that no recent mayoral administration has exhibited the political will to enable the poor to live in DC – whether the poor are new arrivals who choose to move here or long-time DC residents who are trying to remain. Anthony Williams is responsible for replacing the rent cap with rent control – a move that has allowed rents to resume their ascent to the stars. Since then, there has been an exponential increase in homelessness locally – whether by coincidence or causation – and, in the last ten years, at least 40,000 Afro-American Washingtonians have left the city due to sky-high rents.

Adrian Fenty seemed like he would be different. As the Ward 4 councilman, he also chaired the Committee on Human Services. He was quite responsive to the complaints of homeless people and has held town hall meetings at the DC Village Family Shelter – one of the two shelters his administration closed, with the other being the Franklin School Shelter. In hindsight we see that it was a desire to ascend through the ranks of government rather than a genuine concern for the homeless which made him so attentive to the cries of the poor.

In December 2006 over 80 homeless people attended a meeting that was put on by Fenty's transition team. Getting that many homeless people to attend a political event was no small feat. Pizza and soda WERE served, though it wasn't until after the meeting – with food always being a draw. However, there was a genuine excitement among the homeless who thought that Fenty's apparent dedication to ending (or at least softening the impact of) their plight while he was councilman would translate into the policies he adopted as mayor. His closure of the Franklin School Shelter (for single men) in September 2008 – after having made the campaign promise to keep it open – was the last straw. The homeless completely lost faith in him at that point – and it was fitting that they did, for more reasons than they themselves understood at the time.

The two housing programs which Adrian Fenty began in conjunction with the shelter closures have had foreseeable funding problems. To justify the Franklin closure, Fenty used two-time federal funding to begin DC's Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) Program. When that funding ran out, the DC Council had to use local dollars to maintain the program – which meant that the money was taken from other local programs. To keep from evicting the newly-housed, the Gray administration has more recently had to transfer PSH recipients to the federal housing Choice Voucher Program – which is one of the reasons that HCVP isn't taking any new applications right now.

The System Transformation Initiative (STI) program which families from DC Village were moved into was supposed to house them “indefinitely” but had to change its format and name due to a lack of funding less than two years after the program's inception. Now STEAP (Short-Term Exit Assistance Program) pays a family's rent on a descending scale for a year, after which people with serious employment challenges are expected to pay $1,500-2,000 per month in rent (or possibly $800-1,000 for a slum dwelling). This has resulted in some families choosing the security of the shelter over a year-long program at the end of which they are more likely to end up on the streets than to be in a living-wage job and affordable housing.

A little-known fact about the closure of the DC Village Family Shelter is that former DHS Director Clarence Carter was given a test when hired on July 23rd, 2007 by then-mayor Fenty: he had to close DC Village within three months. He passed. (Clarence Carter now works for Arizona Governess Jan brewer.) Tucked neatly between the two shelter closures was the resignation of Leslie Steen as the chair of Fenty's Affordable Housing Task Force after one year on the job due to not having “supervisory responsibility for the several housing agencies which she was supposed to coordinate”. It looks now as though Fenty made a few token efforts to help the poor and homeless of DC; but all of them backfired. I'm left to wonder if that's the way he planned it. And let's not forget about Councilman Barry's Poverty Commission. What ever became of that?

Now for Mayor Gray. He held his One City Summit at the Convention Center on February 11th, 2012 (the same day we lost Whitney). The primary concern put forth by the 2,000 Washingtonians who participated in the instant survey was the severe shortage of affordable housing. Mayor Gray promised to have another One City Summit in 2013 during which we'd be given the opportunity to grade his progress at meeting our demands. He has started another Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force which held public hearings in October and November. They'll submit their recommendations to the mayor soon. I'm sure that Mayor Gray at the next One City Summit will tout the task force's existence and its minimal accomplishments as proof that he's aiding the poor of the city. But given the failures and token efforts of previous administrations, poor Washingtonians should have learned by now not to count their chickens before they hatch – that is, not to take glory or comfort in what a local politician says they are doing for the poor until the results are actually being felt by the intended recipients.

On September 28th, 2012 – just two days before the end of the fiscal year – Mayor Gray pushed through a piece of “emergency legislation” which enabled him to spend a total of $23 Million on public and charter school upgrades (nicer computers), the Dept. of Parks and Recreation, the Metro System and juvenile detention without going through the usual and lengthy legislative process, the DC Council concurring. While some of the aforementioned measures may have qualified as emergencies, the computer upgrades at the schools definitely don't fit the bill. Meanwhile, he failed to fund the $7 Million budget shortfall in Homeless Services for Fiscal Year 2013, even though it was the first item on the council's “wish list” of items that would receive funding if additional money was found. The Dept. of Human Services has since mitigated the shortfall by decreasing its office space and finding other ways to lower its administrative costs; and, they plan to spend the money saved there on homeless services. Thus, they'll be able to keep shelters open beyond April 2013. Even so, local activists are still up in arms over the unfunded budget shortfall. And they should be. But it's not because the homeless are threatened with a loss of services; but rather, because the mayor has shown callous disregard for the poor of the city, forcing the department that serves the poor to get by on less funding in the midst of a surplus. In spite of what political double-talk the mayor might give, his priorities are clear. We also see for whom he couldn't care less.

When one considers the recent history of local homeless and poverty politics – or shall I say “poli-TRICKS”? – the skepticism of advocates like myself is easily understood. Some people think that I'm a little too aggressive toward politicians and other city officials – which is essentially what was said about the late, great homeless advocate Mitch Snyder. I beg to differ. I've learned during my six and a half years of advocacy what Mitch Snyder learned at some point during his sixteen years of advocacy: that many politicians choose to ignore the plight of the poor and that to advocate for the poor one must employ unconventional, if not aggressive, tactics.

That said, SHARC recently tried to schedule a meeting with Mayor Gray. See the timeline of events surrounding this effort:

Timeline of SHARC's efforts to meet with Mayor Gray

1 -- On Nov. 1st SHARC members entered the Wilson Building (City Hall) and, while there, I filled out a request for a meeting with the mayor as other SHARC members watched.

2 -- On Nov. 13th I did a mail search and found that there were no messages from the mayor's administration in my inbox indicating that a meeting was being arranged between SHARC and the mayor.

3 -- I immediately went to the mayor's Facebook page and posted a comment about wanting to meet with him.

4 -- On Nov. 14th I received a call from a woman in the mayor's scheduling office. She stated that she'd seen the Facebook comment. When I asked her if she'd received the form that was submitted on Nov. 1st, she said "No".

5 -- That same day I e-mailed her a scanned copy of the form from Nov. 1st.

6 -- on Nov. 16th Christopher Murphy who is the mayor's chief of staff e-mailed me a slightly insulting message in which he acknowledged my right to protest and said that "if I wanted to have a “civil conversation" that he would meet with me. Chris' message said that he thought I had wrong information concerning the mayor's priorities when it comes to schools, charter schools and parks. Chris' message made no reference to SHARC and is construed by some to be an effort to pull me away from the group and into a situation where the mayor and/or his staff can try to intimidate me or buy me off.

7 -- On Nov. 20th I saw the e-mail from the 16th and responded, expressing a willingness to meet with Mr. Murphy and asking about possible dates and other logistics. Mr. Murphy responded with a planned
meeting date/time of Wednesday, November 28th at 12:30 PM but no room number (even though I had asked for one). It is important to note that I'd never heard of the guy before reading his e-mail and that, at that point in time, I'd not made any notable public statement about the mayor's priorities – all of which led me to wonder where Chris Murphy got his “information” about me and what sparked his interest in me.

8 -- On the evening of November 23rd I sent an e-mail in which I showed the name of Chris Murphy, BCC'ed many others and made reference to the hidden media names. The e-mail contained a link to a blog post that explained how the mayor's policies hurt or ignore the poor and homeless. I thought it right to let the mayor's chief of staff know what's being said about  the mayor and that the blog post might explain what "wrong information" Mr. Murphy thinks Mr. Sheptock has concerning the mayor's priorities. Mr. Murphy was insulted by the fact that many people were BCC'ed and sent an e-mail which stated that he wasn't sure that Eric deserved "the respect of a meeting". (Though it didn't state with certainty that the meeting was being called off, it strongly suggested that Mr. Murphy was no longer willing to meet with me.

9 -- I read that message on the morning of November 26th and responded to it, telling Chris Murphy to have thicker skin and be more professional. An unfriendly but sufficiently respectful e-mail exchange occurred throughout the day at the end of which Mr. Murphy reiterated his unwillingness to meet with me (but eventually denied it). This exchange carried over into the morning of the 27th with me sending Chris a response to his last message to me that was sent late on the evening of the 26th – which would turn out to be his last message to me to-date.

10 – in the afternoon of November 26th 50 to 60 homeless people entered the Wilson Building to self-advocate. While there, a group of about a half dozen people returned to the mayor's Community Affairs Office to check on the progress of our application to meet with the mayor. Daryl Levine shook my hand as I began to explain our desire to meet with the mayor and told me in hush tones (which I'm not sure anyone else heard), “You can't meet with the mayor”. Sandra Lee explained that getting a meeting with the mayor can take two or three months, with it having been 25 days since our application had been submitted. When we asked for a tentative date, we were told that their office was just beginning to schedule meetings for the end of December. We left having no more answers than we'd come with.

11 -- On the morning of Nov. 28th I e-mailed Chris again (right before heading to NYC) to ask if my meeting with him was still on. As of the writing of this article, I have not received any response to that message nor any additional communications from the mayor's scheduling office via phone or e-mail.

12 – On the morning of Monday, December 3rd I did a 5-minute radio stint on WPFW 89.3 from 7:23 AM to 7:28 AM during which I mentioned the trouble SHARC has been having with Chris Murphy. Due to my personal rule of letting someone know what I say about them (whether or not I actually like the person), I e-mailed Chris Murphy and let him know about the radio stint. I included a link to the show's recording along with instructions on how to find the 5-minute segment. Chris has not responded. I'll send him a copy of this article as well, whether or not he responds.

The radio station said that they would give him an opportunity to respond to my comments. Whether or not he does, it's a win for SHARC and myself. If Mr. Murphy fails to respond, then my words stand. If, in fact, he does respond, then he will have been called on the carpet by someone he looks down his nose at – a poor, homeless man who has never attended a college or university and never held a government job.

Exchange with Mayor's Chief of Staff Chris Murphy

Message 1:

From:"Murphy, Christopher (EOM)"
Sent:Friday, November 16, 2012 12:11 PM
Subject: an offer

Eric – I certainly respect your right and wish to peacefully protest but I believe you have a misunderstanding of certain actions the mayor took with respect to identifying additional funding for playground renovations, charters schools, and DCPS.  If you have any interest in having a civil conversation about these issues, please know that my door is open and I would welcome it.


Christopher K. Murphy | Chief of Staff  
Executive Office of Mayor Vincent C. Gray | Government of the District of Columbia  

Message 2:

From: Eric Sheptock []
Sent:Tuesday, November 20, 2012 9:27 PM
To:Murphy, Christopher (EOM)
Subject:An Offer for SHARC to Have a Civil Conversation with Mayor Gray's Chief of Staff

An Offer for SHARC to Have a Civil Conversation with Mayor Gray's Chief of Staff

Mr. Chris Murphy,

I just saw your message (below) as I receive many e-mails. That said, I would never flatly refuse to have a civil conversation. I often tell people that, while I understand the need to protest, one should always be ready, willing and able to have intelligent conversation with any and all people -- even those whom they've labeled as "the enemy". I hope that you didn't have me pegged as someone who only chooses to shout and shoot -- a rebel without a cause.

Being that you've given me an open invitation, what is the room number to your office? What is the best number to reach you at? Is there a day or time that works best for you? May I bring other SHARC members? Please advise.
As for your statement, "I believe you have a misunderstanding of certain actions the mayor took with respect to identifying additional funding for playground renovations, charters schools, and DCPS", I haven't the fuzziest idea as to what you're referring to. While I admittedly only have sketchy details on the aforementioned mayoral initiatives, I have absolutely no recollection of having sent you a statement of my position on such matters. I DO know that I made brief mention during a broadcast concerning the $30 million the mayor wants for parks and juxtaposed it with his refusal to fund the $7 million budget shortfall for homeless services. So brief was my mention of the matter that I can hardly imagine that it's what you're referring to. Even so, since you've made "an offer" to talk with myself (and presumably with other SHARC members), I'll take you up on that offer. Please answer my questions concerning meeting logistics and we can go from there.
Thank you.

Eric Jonathan Sheptock
Chairman of SHARC
(Shelter, Housing And Respectful Change)

Message 3:

From:"Murphy, Christopher (EOM)"
To:Eric Sheptock
Sent:Wednesday, November 21, 2012 11:10 AM
Subject:RE: An Offer for SHARC to Have a Civil Conversation with Mayor Gray's Chief of Staff

How about next Wednesday at 12:30?

Message 4:

Forwarded Message -----
From: Eric Sheptock
To: ""
Sent: Friday, November 23, 2012 9:20 PM
Subject: Awesome blog post about mayor Gray ignoring the poor!!!!!

Talk about hitting the jackpot!!!!! I was searching for more info on the mayor's indiscreet emergency legislation that allowed him to give away $23 million. On my first try I ran across this blog post which is a perfect treatise on how the mayor ignores the poor.   It is a must-read!!!!!

I would ask that the hidden media names do research on this issue and write about it. SHARC has requested a meeting with the mayor which should happen in December or January. It would be awesome to get a write-up on this in the mainstream (and tributary) media before that.

I've shown the name of the mayor's chief of staff. He offered to meet with SHARC; because, he felt that we had wrong information concerning the mayor's handling of funds for parks, schools and other priorities of his. SHARC had not sent any official statement to the CoS concerning such matters, leaving me to wonder what made him feel that way. Even so, SHARC is glad to meet with him. Now, read the awesome blog post!!!!!

Eric Jonathan Sheptock
Chairman of SHARC

Message 5:

From:"Murphy, Christopher (EOM)"
>Sent:Friday, November 23, 2012 10:33 PM
>Subject:Re: Awesome blog post about mayor Gray ignoring the poor!!!!!


this is an odd way to communicate with and about me. It concerns me that meeting with you will be a waste of my time. I would hope that would respect me as I am trying to respect you. Your communication does not make me feel respected by you. If that is what you wish, I do not feel it is worth giving you the respect of a meeting.


Message 6:

From: Eric Sheptock []
Sent: Monday, November 26, 2012 08:05 AM
To: Murphy, Christopher (EOM)
Subject: Wednesday at 12:30: to Have a Civil Conversation with Mayor Gray's Chief of Staff


12:30 Wednesday works for me. I'll find out today if it works for others. Put us down for that day/time. I'll let you know by day's end if it won't work. What's the room/office number???

Eric Jonathan Sheptock

Message 7:

From:"Murphy, Christopher (EOM)"
Sent:Monday, November 26, 2012 8:21 AM
Subject:Re: Wednesday at 12:30: to Have a Civil Conversation with Mayor Gray's Chief of Staff

did you see my subsequent email? Your disrespectful, non-constructive behavior makes me think this will be a waste of time.

Message 8:

To:"Murphy, Christopher (EOM)"
Sent:Monday, November 26, 2012 8:34 AM
Subject:NO RESPECT???: Awesome blog post about mayor Gray ignoring the poor!!!!!

Mr. Murphy,

I'm lost as to what you're calling disrespectful. I made 2 basic points in the e-mail which you're referring to:

1 -- I sent the link to a blog post and indicated that it very accurately stated our position concerning the mayor's initiatives and priorities -- how they adversely affect the poor (whether or not it is intentional).

2 -- I reiterated the point that I wasn't sure what statement from me as an individual or SHARC as a whole was the impetus for your initial communication to me; but, I'm glad to meet with you, find out and go from there.

Please tell me what offended you. I have pretty thick skin myself. So, maybe there was a feeling that I missed or forgot to respect. Being that emotion is not a defining characteristic of mine, I openly admit that I might have said something insensitive. please tell me what it is.

As for you refusing to meet with SHARC, 75+ other people were BCC'ed. It doesn't look good for a man in your position as a high-level "public servant" to be so sensitive or to refuse to meet with the public -- especially someone who is so closely connected to the media and has been featured in the mass media for his use of social media (over 15,000 FB/Twitter contacts, not counting e-mail). So, get some thick skin, suck it up, meet with SHARC and let's talk business.
Besides, SHARC has already formally applied for a meeting with the mayor. That meeting WILL take place. So, you can give the mayor a greater advantage than he'd otherwise have by letting OUR meeting serve as a meaningful precursor or you can be the reason your boss ends up flying blind in that meeting.

If you were as smart as a person in your position should be, you'd read the blog post and use it to develop talking points for our meeting on Wednesday. There's still time for you to do that. Now, can we communicate like 2 grown men with thick skin who just want to take care of business as opposed to getting in our feelings? I extend that olive branch to you. We can put this sensitive moment behind us and move forward with some good, rational planning. Are you willing to do that???
I'll attribute some intellect to you and assume you said, "Yes". (Media was BCC'ed. Make your boss and his office look as good as can be expected at this point.) So long as you get and remain in a rational state of mind, we can get along. Anymore feeling from you and you'll be plastered all over the front page of the news. you can take that to the bank.

Eric Jonathan Sheptock
Chairman of SHARC
(Shelter, Housing And Respectful Change)

Message 9:

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: CHRIS MURPHY (mayor's chief of staff) WON'T MEET WITH SHARC!!!!! : Wednesday at 12:30: to Have a Civil Conversation with Mayor Gray's Chief of Staff
From: Eric Sheptock
Date: Mon, November 26, 2012 8:52 am

To: "Murphy, Christopher (EOM)"


I DID see your subsequent after sending the one 2 messages down in this thread. SO DID THE MEDIA!!!!! They can now scroll down in THIS thread and see that you refuse to meet with SHARC. It will be on the radio soon -- unless you suck it up and return to your "offer" to meet with SHARC which YOU put forth without any provocation from me.

So, let me get this: You offer to meet with SHARC. I send any e-mail that wouldn't have offended a professional woman. you (a man) get in your feelings and withdraw the offer which YOU made of your own accord. You and your boss end up looking extremely incompetent. YOU are creating problems for your boss. But there is time to redeem yourself. The next crazy thing you say to me, I'm going all out with the brutal honesty. Suck it up, Baby!!!!!

Eric Jonathan Sheptock
Chairman of SHARC
(Shelter, Housing And Respectful Change)

Message 10:

From: Clarence Talston (WP) []
Sent: Monday, November 26, 2012 09:20 AM
To: Murphy, Christopher (EOM)
Subject: Fw: [FWD: CHRIS MURPHY (mayor's chief of staff) WON'T MEET WITH SHARC!!!!! : Wednesday at 12:30: to Have a Civil Conversation with Mayor Gray's Chief of Staff]

Hello Mr. Murphy,

My name is Clarence Talston and I am a reporter for the Washington Post DC Government Division. I was assigned to cover the SHARC matter involving DC Government's refusal to restore the $7 million dollars for homeless services even though there is a surplus.  In my coverage Mr. Eric Sheptock has forwarded me all his correspondence with DC Government Agencies and Officials and we have chronicled quite a story over the past couple of months.  Today's correspondence is quite a hiccup in the progress and unfortunately Mr. Sheptock's responses are not threats as it relates to media.  Every year the Post does a front page piece on homeless matters over the holiday season and we have featured Mr. Sheptock a couple of years ago and value him as a reliable source.  Though I can't advise you how to move forward with the matter, I can only write the facts as has been presented below.  I would welcome any additional information that you would like to provide in reference to the Mayor's office refusing to meet with the homeless of our city during the holiday season.

Thanks for your time and communication.

Clarence Talston
DC Government Reporter
Washington Post

Message 11:

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: "Murphy, Christopher (EOM)"
To: "''"
Cc: "''" ; "''" ; "''" ; "Ribeiro, Pedro (EOM)"
Sent: Monday, November 26, 2012 9:33 AM
Subject: Re: [FWD: CHRIS MURPHY (mayor's chief of staff) WON'T MEET WITH SHARC!!!!! : Wednesday at 12:30: to Have a Civil Conversation with Mayor Gray's Chief of Staff]

Mr Talston - I find the tone and substance of your email troubling. I also note you are using a Yahoo email account - which in my past dealings with Post reporters unusual.

As you may know, I offered to meet with Mr. Sheptock out of respect. I have subsequently expressed concern to him that that respect was not being reciprocated - and have not yet refused to meet with him. I then received from Mr. Sheptock I highly unusual email that included an odd, immature taunt with a very curious and highly inappropriate misogynistic comment.

I have cc'd two local Post reporters known to me who I am hoping can shed some light on your unusual email.

My best to you,

Message 12:

From: Eric Sheptock []
>Sent:Monday, November 26, 2012 1:45 PM
>To:Murphy, Christopher (EOM)
>Subject:Fw: [FWD: CHRIS MURPHY (mayor's chief of staff) WON'T MEET WITH SHARC!!!!! : Wednesday at 12:30: to Have a Civil Conversation with Mayor Gray's Chief of Staff]

Let me take this opportunity to extend an olive branch and encourage us to meet as planned this Wednesday at 12:30. Here is my direct extension of truce and understanding in the company of SHARC as we galvanize to come down to City Hall. Have a look here

I look forward to meeting you on November 28, 2012 at 12:30 PM. Please confirm our appointment. Have a good day.

Message 13:

----- Forwarded Message -----
>From: "Murphy, Christopher (EOM)"
>To: ""
>Sent: Monday, November 26, 2012 8:16 PM
>Subject: FW: [FWD: CHRIS MURPHY (mayor's chief of staff) WON'T MEET WITH
SHARC!!!!! : Wednesday at 12:30: to Have a Civil Conversation with
Mayor Gray's Chief of Staff]

Mr. Sheptock – Perhaps you would be so kind as to share this email with everyone else that you have blind cc’d on our previous email exchanges. I do not have the privilege of knowing with whom you shared our email conversations but since several people forwarded the thread to me (clearly from you), I assume you will have access to that list.

You are correct – in what was clearly a naïve if well-intentioned effort, I did reach out to you and offer to sit down and have a civil conversation.  I have tremendous respect for all residents of the District and wished to convey that respect to you.  In offering to meet, I sought to clarify certain pieces of
misinformation that were out there and that you were forwarding around.  Again, naively, I thought helping you to understand certain important pieces of information would – at the very least –

allow you to be more informed in your advocacy, which I respect. Subsequent to that very genuine offer, it has become clear to me that such a meeting would not be productive.

To recap, today alone you have:
-sent the odd and troubling taunting, misogynistic email which I have
pasted below in red.

-claimed that I refused to meet with you when I had not – I had only expressed concerns about your erratic behavior, concerns that have only increased throughout the day.

-blind copied large numbers of people on emails you send to me by pretended were respectful, person to person emails between us

-had someone pose as a Washington Post reporter in an email to me and, again oddly, threaten me (here’s just a suggestion – next time a friend of yours poses as a Washington Post reporter online don’t have them use a Yahoo email address).  I believe pretending to be someone online who are you not is a cybercrime but let’s just let that issue go.

-now extended an “olive branch” to me after I replied to the faux reporter’s email and copied known reporters at The Washington Post asking if they had heard of the person posing as a reporter. Needless to say, they had not.

Mr. Sheptock, again – I ask that you share this email broadly with whomever you blind copied so they have the benefit of my reply. Your increasingly erratic, troubling behavior leaves me no choice but to let you know that meeting with you would not be a productive use of my time or yours.

I wish you nothing but the best.

Chris Murphy

[[From: Eric Sheptock []
Sent: Monday, November 26, 2012 8:52 AM
To: Murphy, Christopher (EOM)
Subject: CHRIS MURPHY (mayor's chief of staff) WON'T MEET WITH SHARC!!!!! : Wednesday at 12:30: to Have a Civil Conversation with Mayor Gray's Chief of Staff


I DID see your subsequent after sending the one 2 messages down in this thread. SO DID THE MEDIA!!!!! They can now scroll down in THIS thread and see that you refuse to meet with SHARC. It will be on the radio soon -- unless you suck it up and return to your "offer" to meet with SHARC which YOU put forth without any provocation from me. 

So, let me get this: You offer to meet with SHARC. I send any e-mail that wouldn't have offended a professional woman. you (a man) get in your feelings and withdraw the offer which YOU made of your own accord. You and your boss end up looking extremely incompetent. YOU are creating problems for your boss. But there is time to redeem yourself. The next crazy thing you say to me, I'm going all out with the brutal honesty. Suck it up, Baby!!!!!]]

Message 14:

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Eric Sheptock
To: ""
Sent: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 12:01 AM
Subject: Exchange with mayor's chief of staff

Chris Murphy,

We've had a rather unpleasant exchange today which started with your unfounded and unclear accusation of me having a problematic form of communication. You actually sent the e-mail on November 23rd. I just read it this morning:

Eric - this is an odd way to communicate with and about me. It concerns me that meeting with you will be a waste of my time. I would hope that would respect me as I am trying to respect you. Your communication does not make me feel respected by you. If that is what you wish, I do not feel it is worth giving you the respect of a meeting.

You gave no clear answer at this point as to what you considered to be disrespectful. I've included all of our communications in the attachments so that you can follow the developments from November 16th (before which we'd never communicated) until now.

Being that the e-mails BEFORE the pasted one in blue had no unpleasant overtones by a rational person's standard, it would seem that you have been tasked by the mayor with finding a reason not to meet with SHARC. So, you pretend to be willing to meet, look for the slightest reason to call the meeting off and then blame ME for the process falling apart.

As far as you being offended by my sharing our exchange with others is concerned, you are a public official who is working for a mayor who claims to be transparent. However, you come off as wanting to remain quite opaque. If all that you e-mail and say is of a high moral quality, it shouldn't matter who I BCC. You're not my girlfriend and we don't communicate in confidence. You're a PUBLIC official! DC owns you and all that you do. Get used to it.

As for your other claims and statements:

I WILL share the final message from you. It is in the attachments in its full form. (please excuse the font issues.)

By your own admission, you offered to have a "civil" conversation with me. This came off as you implying that I was less than civil. And it was our first communication ever:

You are correct – in what was clearly a naïve if well-intentioned effort, I did reach out to you and offer to sit down and have a civil conversation.

Did it ever strike you that your first message to me in life might have come across as a little insulting? Nevertheless, I decided to "suck it up" and respond calmly. You "took first blood" -- figuratively speaking. As a matter of fact, you came out swinging.

I sought to clarify certain pieces of misinformation that were out there and that you were forwarding around.

It would have served you and the mayor well had you remained in that aforementioned frame of mind. You seem to have wanted to make the mayor look good. However, you were insulted by me forwarding a public servant's e-mail to the public. That, in turn, led to increasingly unpleasant communications (which is what you hoped for). Now you have an "excuse" not to meet with us.

Subsequent to that very genuine offer, it has become clear to me that such a meeting would not be productive. 

I'm still going to publish information about your boss. If you succeed at telling me something worthwhile that I didn't know, I'll include it in all pertinent statements of mine -- oral and written. That promise stands in spite of our disagreement.
To recap, today alone you have:

-sent the odd and troubling taunting, misogynistic email which I have pasted below in red. 

You make vague, unfounded accusations and don't specify which statements of mine fit the above description. I'll assume your calling these statements misogynistic:

I send any e-mail that wouldn't have offended a professional woman. you (a man) get in your feelings and withdraw the offer which YOU made of your own accord.

If so, you're wrong. Those statements only acknowledge that it's natural for women to be more emotional than men. Those statements are an indictment on YOU for not having thicker skin.

That highly erroneous accusation of yours also helps to highlight the fact that you are extremely sensationalistic.

-claimed that I refused to meet with you when I had not – I had only expressed concerns about your erratic behavior, concerns that have only increased throughout the day.

I'll let the BCC's judge the preceding statement of yours.

-blind copied large numbers of people on emails you send to me by pretended were respectful, person to person emails between us

How did I "pretend" that our messages were person-to-person? Looks like you ASSumed they were person-to person. My first message to you said I would bring other SHARC members in. Your messages to me didn't mention SHARC. Did you know I am the chairman of a group of advocates? If not, you didn't do your homework; because, it's common knowledge. In contrast, those who know me will sometimes ask me not to put something on blast. had you done a Google seaech of me, you would have known my M.O. You got caught slipping. Don't blame me.

-had someone pose as a Washington Post reporter in an email to me and, again oddly, threaten me (here’s just a suggestion – next time a friend of yours poses as a Washington Post reporter online don’t have them use a Yahoo email address).  I believe pretending to be someone online who are you not is a cybercrime but let’s just let that issue go.

Actually, I knew nothing of the "WP reporter" until AFTER the message was   sent. I swear to God and on my father's grave. So, watch your false accusations!

-now extended an “olive branch” to me after I replied to the faux reporter’s email and copied known reporters at The Washington Post asking if they had heard of the person posing as a reporter.  Needless to say, they had not.

I gave you several chances to redeem yourself. The message after the ghost reporter incident was NOT the first time I offered to make peace. maybe it has to be said in the exact same vocabulary for you to make the connection. I understand.

Mr. Sheptock, again – I ask that you share this email broadly with whomever you blind copied so they have the benefit of my reply.  Your increasingly erratic, troubling behavior leaves me no choice but to let you know that meeting with you would not be a productive use of my time or yours.

Consider it shared. Read the paper and see what gets put out there about your boss because you refused to meet with SHARC. You haven't heard the last of me. Neither you nor your boss seem to be transparent. I'll let the general public judge you though.

BTW, what I say is not a threat but a warning.

Here's that OLIVE BRANCH again. And I made this video BEFORE seeing your e-mail response to the ghost writer:
Message 15:
----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Eric Sheptock
To: ""
Sent: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 8:41 AM
Subject: Is there still a SHARC meeting with CHRISTOPHER MURPHY the mayor's chief of staff?

Is there still a SHARC meeting with CHRISTOPHER MURPHY the mayor's chief of staff?
Mr. Murphy, is there still a meeting today at 12:30 PM or not? You didn't make it clear as to whether or not you would still meet with us. An urgent matter has arisen causing me to have to run to NYC this morning. I will return on Friday. However, others in SHARC can more than adequately represent the organization in my stead.
SHARC (the GROUP of homeless advocates of which I'm chairman) would still like to meet with you. I can phone in if you'd like. Feel free to call or text. I won't be checking e-mail again until I reach NYC at 3 PM or later. However, I've sent this to others who can meet with you in my absence. Or we can meet when I return. It's your call. See my contact info below.


Eric Jonathan Sheptock
Chairman of SHARC
(Shelter, Housing And Respectful Change)

Cell phone: (240) 305-5255 

Message 16:
----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Eric Sheptock
To: "" ; Steve ( EOM) Glaude ; "" ; Adrian Fenty ; "" ; Jim Graham ; Jim Graham ; Jim Graham
Sent: Monday, December 3, 2012 12:00 PM
Subject: I did a WPFW radio piece this morning on Mayor Gray & CoS Chris Murphy

I did a WPFW radio piece this morning on Mayor Gray & CoS Chris Murphy


I did a short radio piece this morning in which I discussed, among other things, the trouble SHARC is having gaining access to the mayor or his chief of staff. I've pasted my FB comment below. It contains the link to the radio show. But before you go there, you should know these 2 things:

1 -- Chris Murphy will be asked to do a radio interview in response to mine. (It's awesome that homeless advocateS can call a heady city official to account and make him answer for his actions -- or inaction, as it may be.)

2 -- THIS ARTICLE will tell you something about Chris Murphy. Let me draw your attention to these 2 paragraphs"

"Murphy and Pringle also held off-the-record sessions with local reporters, dubbed “chew and chats,” to try and ingratiate themselves with the various hacks who populate the District’s media landscape.

Their first attempt did not go well. According to multiple people present, early in the first session with reporters, Murphy said the media had blown Gray’s various missteps out of proportion and had not given the mayor a fair shake—a position the assembled reporters did not take kindly to. Add an awkward spat with D.C. Watch’s Dorothy Brizill over various perceived slights, and “it never kind of recovered from that,” says one reporter. (LL had a different chat with Murphy and Pringle, and things went fine, though it was also off the record.)"

We'd have to deduce that Mr. Murphy likes to manipulate the media and that he is not transparent at all. As a matter of fact, he put the "ache" in opaque. I'll do a complete write-up on him soon as SHARC builds its case against Mayor Gray and certain members of his administration.

While Mr. Murphy's messages contain overtones of conceit and him thinking that meeting with him and/or the mayor is a privilege, SHARC has the ability and will to flip that idea on its head. When SHARC gets through with Murphy and the mayor, both of them will be clamoring to meet with the homeless advocates. After all, both are afraid of bad PR. And to think that Mr. Murphy accused me of "taunting" him. It looks like I was pretty for real now, doesn't it????? He should've read about me and found out that my use of social media is iconic and that I do many media stints many of which can be found through a quick Google search. You would think that such an ACCOMPLISHED MAN as Chris Murphy and one who is SO AFRAID OF BAD PRESS would have been sure to meet with the likes of me so as to ensure that what I publish about the mayor aligns with what the chief of staff wants.


To hear my 5-minute radio discussion about DC homelessness, how the mayor's policies hurt the homeless and the trouble SHARC is having with his chief of staff: 1 -- click THIS LINK, 2-- go to the list of shows that appears and click "play" or "download" next to the entry for 5:00 to 8:00 AM on 12/3/12 and move the slider to the 2 hr, 23 min mark. I come on after a little bit of jazz.

Finally, this BLOG POST by friend Kathryn Baer of DC (BCC'ed) is at the center of this disagreement between Chris Murphy and SHARC. (Chris has never made mention of SHARC in his communications with me, even AFTER I mention the group to him.) What initially upset Chris was the fact that I BCC'ed many people including media people as I sent this blog post around -- and we know that he likes to manipulate the media. In the e-mail text I made mention of the fact that I'd BCC'ed the media. He was not able to "reply to all" and manipulate them. He was counting on them contacting him one-by-one (in which case he'd have to respond to 75+ people one-by-one). Now we all know Chris Murphy's style and his pet peeve. Let's build a citywide campaign against him and call the mayor's hiring practices into question. SHARC is just getting started on CM.

Eric Jonathan Sheptock
Chairman of SHARC
(Shelter, Housing And Respectful Change)
Cell phone: (240) 305-5255

1 – The mayor must have told Chris Murphy to “pretend” to want to meet with the advocates, find a reason not to and call the meeting off. Though I can't prove the mayor's involvement, I received Chris' first e-mail 15 days after submitting the application to meet with the mayor, 3 days after posting a comment on the mayor's Facebook page and 2 days after a woman from the scheduling office called me in response to the Facebook comment. So, it stands to reason that the mayor knew that SHARC wanted a meeting, didn't want to meet with us and wanted to make us look like the bad guys. Howbeit, his chief of staff focused on me as an individual and never acknowledged SHARC.

2 – The mayor and his staff wanted to get me alone, which is why Mr. Murphy never acknowledged SHARC in his e-mails. They were hoping to intimidate me or buy me off.

3 – Chris Murphy was INITIALLY upset by me blind carbon copying many people (which ties in with the conclusion that he wanted to get me alone for the aforementioned reasons). Though he later cited additional (illogical, erroneous) reasons for not wanting to meet, it seems a bit peculiar that he “somewhat” called off our meeting based on that issue alone. (he later denied calling it off, though the pasted e-mail indicates otherwise.) This serves the notion that he was “pretending” to be willing to meet with me in hopes that I'd give him a reason not to. The fact that he bit too soon rather than waiting for me to toss him a bigger fish helps to show his true intention as they were at the onset.

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