About Housing First

While debating with Clarence carter on STREATS TV, I addressed the imminent closure of Franklin School Shelter. While the mayor's housing plan is shaped to address homelessness across the city and not just at Franklin, the Franklin School Shelter can serve as a microcosm of the larger homeless situation in DC. The closure of Franklin is bound to set off a chain reaction of problems that the city is ill-prepared for.

If the mayor's housing plan is called "Housing First", then maybe it should live up to that name. However, one of the larger shelters in the city is about to be closed without all of its residents being housed. The 400 units of permanent supportive housing that are coming on-line this year are not being allocated for the men at Franklin. I'm not saying that they should be. Instead, the city should keep the shelter open until the vast majority of its residents have been housed and there are too few people left to justify keeping the building open and staffing it.

The homeless men who feel attached to this part of town (Ward 2) would rather sleep outside than to move to another shelter in a part of town that they are not familiar with and where they would need to make new connections. They would move into housing quite willingly. But they are unwilling to move to another shelter. The latter would not even be a lateral move. They'd be moving downward by going to a new part of town where they need to start all over getting to know new people and new homeless services.

During the shows taping, I had an opportunity to speak with Clarence Carter off-camera. While we took a break from the taping, he asked me what right i have to decide where my shelter is located. I explained to him that I (or any homeless person) need to walk from the shelter to various services. Out of necessity the shelter must be near these services. If not, DHS and the Dept. of Parks and Rec. would need to prepare to transport a large number of homeless people from the shelters that are on the outskirts of town to the various services that they need. He had nothing to say in return.

I sensed in his question a desire to decide things "for" the homeless and not "with" the homeless. That seems to be a rather consistent pattern in the behavior of DC Government. That's an article in and of itself.

Earlier today, I ran across some information pertaining to the Gales School, a building which was mentioned in the mayor's housing plan on April 2nd. (That is the building near Union Station that the Central Union Mission acquired in the land swap that they did with DC Government.) The resolution that was recently adopted by the council OK'ed the disposition of that property by DC Government due to it being in an extreme state of disrepair. The language used also suggests that it is being passed off as a replacement for Franklin and a fulfillment of Mayor Fenty's promise to WIN (Washington Inter-faith Network) to create 150 shelter beds in the downtown area. It is neither.

Gales School will not be a low-barrier shelter like Franklin. Many who reside at Franklin will not go to a shelter that requires them to attend church services. Furthermore, Gales School is a replacement for the men who presently reside at the Central Union Mission (C.U.M.). If I'm not mistaken, the new location will have 70 more beds than the old one. However, Franklin holds 300 men.

Having 150 more homeless men in this part of town will put more of a strain on other services located near Union Station. It may very well double the number of men who eat lunch at St. Aloysius, just 2 blocks away. The number of people who eat breakfast at S.O.M.E. (So Others Might Eat) at 71 O Street could go from 300 to 450. With the combined closures of Franklin and the central Union Mission, Miriam's Kitchen at 24th and G Streets, NW could end up losing 90% of its patrons. Doing the "Homeless Shuffle" could prove to be chaotic.

I've only begun to ennumerate the problems that the District is about to encounter when its plans come to bear. I'll stop there for the moment. It would probably require several more articles of similar length to adequately cover this issue.

Eric Jonathan Sheptock
925 13th St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20005-4005
( ericsheptock@yahoo.com )
Homeless Advocate, G.A.B. (Government Agitating Bigmouth)
Until We're Home, inc., www.untilwerehome.org
Make LOVE, not war.


Anonymous said…

You are so passionate and eloquent. I am glad you have a forum on Street Sense. You are the heir of Mitch Snyder. I sense big things coming your way. Fight on, brother.

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