Hungry, Huddled Hordes Of Homeless

I recently exchanged e-mails with DC Government concerning the fact that the homeless are going hungry while remaining in the hypothermia shelter all day during hypothermia. It didn't go well. Long story short, the homeless will be fed additional meals if they remain in the shelter all day due to there being snow or ice on the ground. If they remain in the shelter all day due to it being 20 degrees outside, they will only receive the usual dinner, no lunch or breakfast. Read our exchange below and my further explanation that follows:

From: Eric Sheptock [mailto: ]
Sent: Monday, November 24, 2008 4:01 PM
Subject: No Food For The Homeless During Hypothermia!!!!!


I personally have yet to stay at 801 East throughout the day when it is hypothermic. However, more than one man has told me that food was not provided by DHS/Catholic Charities during hypothermia. It is my understanding that, a couple of days ago, the men didn't receive any food until 5 PM, having last eaten at 7:30 PM the previous evening. Furthermore, the food that they received at 5 PM came from a church.

During the winter plan meeting on September 3rd, Fred Swan assured me that more than one meal would be served on hypothermic days. What happened, Fred? The lack of homeless services in SE was one of the big reasons that guys didn't want to move there. Now that Franklin has been closed, the services that the mayor and others promised are not being delivered. They were only delivered long enough to pacify the homeless and move them into SE. This amounts to a bait and switch.

--- On Tue, 11/25/08, Swan, Fred (DHS) wrote:

From: Swan, Fred (DHS)
Subject: RE: No Food For The Homeless During Hypothermia!!!!!
Date: Tuesday, November 25, 2008, 8:49 AM


What I said at the meeting you are referring to is that on hypothermia alert days when there is inclement (snow, ice, etc.), which makes it dangerous for individuals to travel to the feeding programs, we would ensure that there are meals provided at the shelters. Otherwise, individuals can utilize the transportation to get to the feeding programs. Shelters to provide snacks, but meals are not provided during the day unless it is inclement weather.

From: Eric Sheptock [mailto: ]
Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2008 12:06 PM
Subject: RE: No Food For The Homeless During Hypothermia!!!!!

So, if a man takes the shuttle bus to S.O.M.E. (or the nearest shuttle bus stop) to eat, he can't get back to 801 East, even during a freeze, provided there is no snow. HE MUST REMAIN OUTDOORS OR GO ELSEWHERE TO STAY WARM.

The last scheduled bus ride leaves 801 East about 7:30 AM. I know of the UPO van. That is not run on a timely schedule. What I mean is that one must call for it, as opposed to waiting near the MLK library at an appointed time. This may be too uncertain for some to the extent that they don't want to take their chances leaving the shelter to get food. They might not get back soon enough. They might need to wait in the cold in excess of an hour.

RE: No Food For The Homeless During Hypothermia!!!!!Tuesday, November 25, 2008 12:09 PM From: "Swan, Fred (DHS)"

No Eric that is not the case. They can take the hotline van back to the shelter.

Fred Swan is the head of the Family Services Administration which is a division of the Dept. of Human Services. He is often quick to rectify problems that other homeless advocates and I report to him. However, when faced with the choice of improving services at the behest of a homeless person/advocate or saving face for himself and/or DHS, he'll always do the latter. Saving face for the department (or himself) always dwarfs the need to help the homeless in his mind. At least that has been my observation. And I've been watching for a while.

Note: The feeding places that the homeless go to were within 2 miles of the now closed Franklin Shelter. The men would need to walk about 6 miles to get to the NEAREST one from the 801 East Shelter

As for the way that he says things will play out this winter, I've decided to construct a worse-case scenario for you. It would go as follows:

The men of the 801 East Shelter decide to venture out on a cold day so as to get food at S.O.M.E. (So Others Might Eat), Miriam's Kitchen or DPHW (Dinner Program for Homeless Women), which now feeds breakfast to men and women, making it an obvious misnomer for 2 reasons.

It is 20 degrees; but, there is no snow or ice on the ground.

((There are scheduled shuttle buses that bring the men from the MLK, Jr. Library to the shelter, leaving the library at 6:10 PM and 6:45 PM, 7 days a week. The shuttle arrives at the shelter at 6:30 AM, 7:00 AM and 7:30 AM 5 days per week. There are 2 morning buses on the weekend. This is all with the assumption that there aren't any problems.))

After the men eat, they begin to call the hypothermia van from dozens of locations. The van begins to galavant all over God's creation to find this dispersed crowd of homeless men and return them to the shelter. (There is no set pick-up point or time at this time of day.)

Some of the men will end up waiting in the cold in excess of an hour. They won't be able to wait inside, as they'd risk not being seen by the hypothermia van. In some instances, there is no place for them to wait inside after the breakfast program that they eat at closes down.

You can only image what might go wrong during the wait. How many people will be frost-bitten or freeze while awaiting the hypothermia van?

It is much easier to have one van bring the food to several shelters than it is to have the hypothermia van gallavant all over god's creation to round up hundreds of homeless people and return them to several shelters. It is also much more economical. Consider the price of gas and the time consumed with all of the extra driving.



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