PERMANENT SUPPORTIVE HOUSING

Below is my testimony that I will read before Councilman Tommy Wells on Halloween (tomorrow). It tells what a debacle and a fiasco DC's version of Housing first is. Read it and weep.

Statements To Be Presented At The HALLOWEEN HEARING on PERMANENT SUPPORTIVE HOUSING and SHELTER CAPACITY

I would like to begin by reminding you, Councilman Wells, that we discussed Permanent Supportive Housing on September 19th during the Winter Plan Hearing, due to the Winter Plan having not been ready at that time. At that time, I pointed out to you that people with serious drug problems were being housed through the fiasco known as “Housing First” and were abusing the system. I told you that I had not been offered housing though I’ve been at Franklin Shelter for over 3 years. (I have actually been homeless elsewhere for much longer.) You asked me whether or not I would accept housing if it were offered to me. I said, “Yes”.

Well, I still haven’t been housed. However, those who still have drug habits are being housed and losing their housing. They are selling their furniture, appliances and even the vouchers themselves. It is my understanding that DHS has now taken back 50 of the housing vouchers that they gave out. This is not an indictment on the drug users but rather on DHS. They set people up to fail. Who could’ve guessed that a user who sold things out of his mother’s house would sell his own furniture?
This speaks volumes to what a philosophical fiasco the Housing First model of Permanent Supportive Housing really is. Housing First might work well for those with mild physical ailments or employment issues; but, it doesn’t work well for those with acute illnesses or drug addictions. A certain man with several severe physical conditions including heart, lung and back trouble attended the ICH meeting on October 10th. He mentioned that he was afraid to be home alone in his new unit; because, he might have a heart attack or stop breathing with no one there to help him. I’ve already mentioned the problems associated with users having not been given adequate counseling prior to being placed in housing.

I also told you of how the original plan called for several levels of monitoring within the PSH program. The vouchers are part of the scattered-site model of housing whereby clients are placed in apartment units and monitored at a low or moderate level. There was also supposed to be site-based housing which would consist of DC Government owning the entire building. With this model, the program’s clients would have apartment units upstairs and there would be service providers downstairs. They would include doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists. This type of housing has yet to be built here in DC. Those who need close monitoring are being placed in scattered-site housing that doesn’t meet their needs. Once again, the bad behavior of the drug users is an indictment on DC Government.

An additional indictment must be stated as well. I was informed that Pathways to Housing tried a similar program about 5 years ago with similar results. If this proves to be true, then DC Government should’ve known from this past experience what could and would happen. Furthermore, the alleged successes of housing first programs in other major cities across the nation have been called to question. Let’s not forget that all perceived successes of the housing first programs throughout the nation are being offset by the economic crisis and recent house foreclosures. We are housing people on one end and they are losing their housing on the other end. How does this constitute success?

Let’s change our thinking on this matter. Let’s begin to house the best of the worst first. That is to say that we should house those who are homeless but don’t have any addictions or serious behavioral or mental issues first. Those who need close monitoring should be placed in the site-based housing when it is built. In the meantime, they should be transferred to facilities that can meet their needs. This would open up the apartment units for those who are responsible and capable of maintaining a residence – people like me.
I’ve not said anything about shelter capacity at this point. I’m sure that others will. However I will say that, as people lose their housing, they are returning to the shelters. The mayor was in such a rush to close Franklin that he didn’t give his housing program time to work first. Now those who were evicted from Franklin are being evicted from their housing during this early winter.

I’ll end by saying this. It is quite ironic that November 1st falls on a Saturday this year. That means that people who get SSI checks will get them on Halloween. Many of those people get high. Needless to say, tonight they’ll be getting spooked in more ways than one.

(I mentioned some of these concerns to you, Councilman Wells, on September 19th, the birthday of my dearly departed girlfriend, Joyce Williams. I also made mention of some of these matters at a hearing in front of Marion Barry on October 16th, even though they don’t fall within his purview. I wanted to add those statements to this testimony; but my computer was working like DC Gov. – very poorly. I might just e-mail those testimonies to you.)

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