Friday, August 1, 2008

Saving Franklin (Until approx. October 1st)

I was just about to post information about recent developments at Franklin School Shelter when I ran across the messages of a friend from the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. These 2 messages explain that many of the men were told that they couldn’t return to the shelter tonight and that the decision was later reversed in the nick of time.
WLCH took affidavits that were filled out by 2 dozen homeless men and filed them with the court. The court issued a temporary restraining order reversing the phasing-out process that would’ve left dozens (not all of them having filled out affidavits) with nowhere to go. This would've been grossly irresponsible and inhumane on the part of DC Government in general and DHS in particular. It would also be reason to alert the public via the mass media. It is a good thing that it was stopped. The men are safe until about the 1st of October.
I have an idea. Let's involve the homeless themselves as we seek to end homelessness. Let's have DC Government to end homelessness in the District WITH the homeless, not FOR the homeless.
The first step toward ending homelessness is homeless empowerment. Don't just do things FOR them. Show them what THEY can do.

Message 1 (The BAD News):

Friends and Allies:

We need your help to keep homeless men from being turned out to the street with no place to go, beginning this Friday, August 1st.

Back in April, when Mayor Fenty announced his permanent supportive housing (PSH) initiative, he announced his intention to close the Franklin Shelter by October 1st. He explained that residents of the shelter would be moved into housing, rather than being forced to stay in a shelter with deteriorating conditions.

For over five years, the Franklin Shelter, located at 13th and K Streets, NW, has provided life-saving shelter to countless men, many of whom never previously came in from the streets and parks. According to DHS, in the past 90 days, 1000 different individuals were sheltered there. Franklin has a nightly capacity of 300. Conditions are not terrific, but they have improved over the past year; the fact that the shelter is at or near capacity nearly every night speaks volumes to how valuable the residents feel the shelter is to them.

With no public hearing or opportunity to comment on the plan and two months before the Mayor's deadline, the Administration has begun to take steps toward the closure. The Department of Human Services (DHS) has crafted a list of 320 men who, based on how long they've stayed at the shelter, will be permitted to stay at Franklin between August 1st and October 1st. Regardless of how many open beds there are, no one else will be admitted! Dozens of men will be turned away when they arrive for intake this Friday afternoon and every afternoon for the next two months. We have been asked for assistance by a number of these men.

Not one person has yet been housed through the Mayor's new PSH initiative. There is inadequate capacity in the remainder of the shelter system to serve those who will be turned away from Franklin . The men who are not on the list of 320 will have no place to go. In March of 2005, Adrian Fenty told the Washington Post: “We want to make sure that there’s a plan, so that next time, before anybody ever announces that Franklin is going to close, that there is a plan for where people are going to go.” Please join us in calling on the Mayor to suspend the closure actions until permanent supportive housing is available for those who need it and an adequate alternative downtown shelter site is in place so that people have a safe space to sleep until they can access affordable housing.

Please e-mail the mayor at mayor@dc.gov and copy the city administrator at dan.tangherlini@dc.gov, the director of Human Services at clarence.carter@dc.gov, and the City Council at membersonly@dccouncil.us They need to hear this simple message from the community:
Dear Mayor Fenty: I live [or work] in the District of Columbia . I am concerned about our neighbors who are homeless and I believe in a just and inclusive community. I oppose your efforts to close the Franklin Shelter before an adequate alternative downtown shelter site is in place for men experiencing homelessness. I ask you immediately to direct that current efforts to downsize Franklin Shelter be halted.
You can also sign an online petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/franklin

Thanks very much for your support. If you'd like more information, please feel free to contact the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless at (202) 328-5500.

Patty
(contact info below)

Message 2 (The GOOD News):

Friends:
We heard from our clients and the Department of Human Services this morning that the men will be allowed to come back to Franklin Shelter tonight on a “first come first serve” basis. We appreciate everything you may have done to push for this reprieve. You may want to thank Mayor Fenty for this decision.

Unfortunately, this week’s scare may just be the beginning. As far as we know, the plan is still to close Franklin Shelter by October 1st. Please continue to let the Mayor know that you oppose his efforts to close the Franklin Shelter before an adequate alternative downtown shelter site is in place for men experiencing homelessness. (You can e-mail the Mayor at mayor@dc.gov and copy the city administrator at dan.tangherlini@dc.gov, the director of Human Services at clarence.carter@dc.gov, and the City Council at membersonly@dccouncil.us.)

We may need to remind the Mayor of his words at the 8/22/2007 Capstat session on "Ending Homelessness”: "It [ Franklin ] will have to close eventually but we can't close it until we get an alternate site downtown."

You can also continue to sign the online petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/franklin

We’ll continue to update you as we learn more from our clients. Thanks again.

Best-
patty

Patricia Mullahy Fugere, Esq.
Executive Director
Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless
True Reformer Building
1200 U Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 328-5504
(202) 328-5515 (fax)
www.legalclinic.org
patty@legalclinic.org
If you see someone on the streets who is in need of shelter or other assistance, please call the shelter hotline at 1-800-535-7252. It might save a life. Thanks!
CFC # 82572 United Way # 8472

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