Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Franklin Residents Being "Dumped" Outside With Nowhere To Go

Some of you know and others are about to find out that many of the men at Franklin School Shelter have been told not to return after Thursday night. The staff has begun the winding down process, since Franklin is slated to close in just over 2 months. Two lists have been comprised -- an "in" list and an "out" list. The 320 men who have stayed at Franklin the most during the 90-day period ending July 25th will be allowed in after July 31st. Not all of the 320 men on the "in" list stay there every night. So, it is quite possible that only 200 of those on the "in" list will be there on any given night, leaving as many as 100 empty beds.

All others will be told that they can't return in August (even if there are empty beds). Some of those who are not allowed to return will not have anywhere to go and will be left outside to battle the elements. (The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless reported that on July 28th there were only 55 vacancies in other male shelters across the city. This will not be enough to accommodate the 300 men at Franklin or even the several dozen who can't return on Friday.) This calls for some actions to be taken on behalf of the homeless.

QUESTION (for DHS): Supposing that there are 100 vacancies on Friday and 100 men who were told to leave after Thursday, will they be turned away even if they have nowhere to go? .....if it's raining?

We need people to document the events of Friday such as:

1 -- people being turned away with nowhere to go

2 -- other shelters indicating that they are full

3 -- if it is raining

4 -- homeless people who leave Franklin and go to the parks and storefronts to sleep

5 -- how many empty beds there are at Franklin

We also need people to call or e-mail the mayor with their concerns for the homeless men of Franklin. Let him know how inhumane this is. One of his e-mails is: .

Let the media know what is being done. Let's use some bad publicity. (As long as it's true, there's nothing that they can do about it.)

As for my part, I'll keep people posted.

The above ideas are just a start.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Homeless confront councilmember/Announcement

On Sunday, July 27th, 86 people (some homeless and others homeless advocates and supporters)visited the home of Councilman Tommy Wells. It went rather well, in my opinion. I will post more details soon.

ANNOUNCEMENT: There will be a meeting at Franklin School Shelter at 7:30 PM on Tuesday, July 29th. We will be planning our approach to Mayor Fenty about the planned closure. Join us.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Putting the brakes On Shelter Closures

The DC Council was due to begin their 2-month recess on Tuesday, July 15th. However, the need arose for them to create some emergency legislation. One of the matters at hand was the fate of the Gales School at 65 Massachusetts Ave., NW. They ended up having a late-night session on the 15th. During that session, they decided to make the mayor remove all references to other shelters such as Franklin School and Harriet Tubman from the proposed legislation which, if passed, would allow him to dispose of the Gales School, which is slated to become a homeless shelter once again.

Having so graciously postponed their recess by 2 days, the Council reconvened on July 17th to review the mayor’s re-written legislation and to vote on it. It only took an hour of deliberations for them to grant the mayor permission to dispose of the Gales School property in a land swap with Central Union Mission. While some people may feel that they have reason to rejoice, others will suffer ill-effects as a result of the passage of Bill 17-899. No matter what side of the issue you are on, some very interesting points were raised.

The Council would not allow the mayor to juxtapose what is being done at other shelters with the land swap being done by DC Government and the Central Union Mission. (C.U.M. will acquire the Gales School and $7 million in exchange for the property they had previously planned to move into in the 3500 block of Georgia Ave. , which will be turned into affordable housing by DC Government.) In the same sense, Council Chairman Vincent Gray is against the idea of juxtaposing the creation of housing for the homeless with the number of shelter beds. He has correctly determined that, even after housing is created, there is still a need to maintain a certain number of emergency shelter beds. Mr. Gray told Councilman Tommy Wells, who chairs the Committee on Human Services, to take stock of the number of shelter beds and to make certain that we will have enough this winter. If Chairman Gray has his way, no more shelters will be closed until we are sure that we don’t need them.

Councilman Catania was concerned about the fact that Central Union Mission is a faith-based organization. He elicited a promise from David Treadwell, director of C.U.M., to adhere to DC’s Human Rights Act. That entails not refusing to serve someone based on their faith. Mr. Catania was not against the mission only hiring Christians. His emphasis was on who will get served by the mission.

David Treadwell, who had not been scheduled to testify, was asked to do so candidly. He obliged. He emphasized that the mission serves all people in need who come to its doors and will continue to do so. He spoke of a Muslim man who is not made to attend C.U.M.’s Christian services, but is allowed to sit in the hall instead during services. (More than 1 person told me that this Muslim man should be allowed to do something else, not just sit in the hall.)

Of the 12 council members present (with Marion Barry being the only no-show), Phil Mendelson was the only one to vote against the bill. He pointed out that the city was giving a $9 million building and $7 million in cash to the mission, in exchange for property worth $4 million. The city is losing $12 million in this deal. Mr. Mendelson suggested that the city retain the property and run the shelter themselves. At times it seemed like he was reading the testimony that a friend of mine had delivered a week earlier. He was the only one saying what most of us who were present wanted to hear.

Tom Howarth of the father McKenna Center was terribly disappointed as a result of the decision. He fears that his kitchen will be overwhelmed with clientele as a result of there being another shelter just a few blocks from his kitchen. He was equally disappointed by the fact that his concern was not even given short shrift in the legislative meeting.

The Council seems to be paying attention to the issue of homelessness these days. That’s a plus. At times Jim Graham and Carol Schwartz seemed to be looking directly at me in an effort to read my expression and sense my reaction to what was being said. I was definitely glad that Franklin School Shelter had been well-spoken for. It has been taken off of the chopping block for a while. The Council was overwhelmingly against the closure of Franklin. While I revel in that victory, I’m sure that there are those who want to know whether or not I’ll remain involved in other issues that affect the homeless community of our nation’s capital. The answer is an emphatic: YES.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

The Fate of Gales and Franklin Schools

Yesterday the council (which so graciously postponed its recess to deal with some emergency legislation)held a legislative meeting. At issue was the fate of Gales School. Due to computer malfunctions and other concerns, I've been short on blogging time for a couple of days. However, I decided to post my e-mail response to an on-line dispute between Councilmember Jim Graham and former mayoral candidate Chris Otten. (I will describe the meeting in greater detail in the near future.) I fed them the facts:

Petworth properties are worth $4 million.

Gales School is worth $9 million in current trashy state.

City will give mission $7 million to renovate Gales.

Terms include gales remaining a shelter for at least 40 years with at least 150 beds and going back to city if ever used for anything else.

At Gales, mission will have a net gain of 22 beds or more.

Council strongly signaled an unwillingness to allow Franklin to close. Gray asked wells to assess the number of emergency shelter beds. He wants to stop the mayor from closing any more shelters until we are sure that we have enough shelter beds. He does not want to use the fact that housing is being created for the homeless to justify closing shelters and decreasing number of shelter beds.

Gales formerly held 178 people.

Franklin holds 300.

CUM holds 128.

TOTAL: 606.

Former Gales is closed.

If Franklin closes, which the council might stop or postpone, we will have gone from 606 to 150 beds between the 3 shelters.

Council has stopped the mayor from juxtaposing emergency shelter bed numbers with the 400 units of permanent supportive housing (PSH) being created this year and 1600 units in following years. gray correctly stated that they are separate issues and that we must maintain a sufficient number of emergency beds, no matter how many people are housed.

Read my blog site (in my signature). I'll post my thoughts about yesterday soon.

I'm glad to help and to inform. Ask what you will.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

More Info About Gales School

As you may know, Gales School is a historic building in DC which is slated to be turned into a homeless shelter. It served as a homeless shelter from 2000 to 2004 and then was closed so as to be renovated. Much controversy has arisen over the fate of this building. It is supposed to serve as a replacement for the Central Union Mission which is presently located at 14th and R streets, NW. However, the mission is due to leave their present location in October of 2009, while Gales School might not be ready for occupancy until some time in 2011. That leaves us with 2 years during which there would be no Central Union Mission.

The Councilmembers Jim Graham and Carol Schwartz have mentioned the possibilities of expediting the renovation of Gales School and/or postponing their departure from their present location. Neither is as easy as I make it sound. I would like to mention the possibility of keeping Franklin School Shelter open (as it is due to be closed by October 1st, ' 08) and putting the C.U.M. residents on the 3rd floor, which is presently unused.

CORRECTION: The central Union Mission holds 128 men, not 170. (This doesn't change the figures that are given in my testimony or that of a friend all that much.)

NOTE: Someone else that I know liked this friend's testimony so much that he asked me to put them in touch with each other. I think you'll like it too.

A friend and fellow advocate named Oscar wrote the following testimony and presented it to several councilmembers on July 10th, as we sat side-by-side. He kept me in stitches throughout his testimony. Read and enjoy.....


I'd like to begin by giving a bit of background on the circumstances that brought us here today.

The Gales School Shelter, a publicly run shelter, was closed in 2004 for renovations. When open, it was able to provide shelter for approximately 170 people; 97 men and 81 women. This government said that it intended to renovate and reopen the shelter.

Central Union Mission, a privately owned (and operated) shelter, had previously announced plans to move from their current location in Ward 2, to a site on Georgia Avenue, in Ward 1, that would allow them to expand their capacity to 170 people. However, due to a seemingly small, but vocal group of NIMBY residents, the Mission was forced to delay plans to open their new facilities on Georgia Avenue. Councilmember Jim Graham also opposed the Mission's move to Georgia Avenue. Simultaneously, Mayor Adrian Fenty, as you know, has also announced plans to close the Franklin School Shelter, with a capacity of 300 men, on October 1st of this year.

Councilmen Graham & Evans, as you also know, had introduced (as emergency legislation with no public notice nor input required), but withdrew, legislation that would dispose of the Gales School.

Now, in a deft move to force the homeless community from downtown DC, and out of the wards whose residents they purport to represent, Councilmembers Graham and Evans have introduced legislation that would give the Gales School site to Central Union Mission in exchange for their parcels on Georgia Avenue and an agreement to operate the shelter, with a capacity of 150 men for not less than 40 years. The mayor's office has claimed that the city couldn't afford the estimated $9 million cost of renovating the Gales School.

This is problematic for several reasons.

(1) The net number of beds available for homeless individuals among the Franklin Shelter, Gales Shelter, and Central Union Mission, as of October is declining from a potential 640 (300-Franklin + 170 Central Union Mission + 170 Gales) to 150 (though Gales will likely be unready for occupancy until 2010).

The Mayor has also juxtaposed his announcement about the closure of the Franklin Shelter this October with his announcement of the creation of 400 units of "Permanent Supportive Housing". One major problem, however, is that these units, if they do materialize, won't be ready for occupancy until 2010 or 2012 (Franklin is scheduled to close THIS October). Further, it's not as if men currently residing at Franklin will be given priority for these units, and the need for permanent supportive housing far exceeds 400 people in the District, anyway.

(2) The Mayor's office claims that the city can't afford to pay the estimated $9 million to renovate the building, yet we have $800 million for a baseball stadium, and countless other corporate subsidies, and the city is GIVING Central Union Mission $7 million to renovate the very same building. Further, the land we would be receiving from Central Union Mission is valued at $2.68 million, while the Gales School, which Central Union Mission would be receiving, is valued at nearly $9 million.

(3) While faith-based shelters are wonderful for those who share the faith of those providing the shelter, it does not seem inclusive to replace non-denominational shelters with faith-based ones.

(4) Our public property, according to District law, is not supposed to be disposed
of unless it "has no further public purpose". Yet, in his analysis sent to this Council to justify why Gales should be disposed of, the Mayor's office acknowledges that there is a public purpose; that is serving the homeless community; yet he still recommends disposing of the building.

Why, if the Council can afford to pay Central Union Mission to renovate the Gales School, does the city not renovate our building itself?

Why doesn't Mayor Adrian Fenty want the city to provide services directly for its homeless residents?

Why is the city providing fewer shelter beds when the number of homeless individuals is increasing?

Why are Councilmember Graham and Evans trying to push homeless services out of Wards 1 and 2?

Why would anyone vote for Jack Evans, given his continued disregard for the well being of the District's residents, particularly low-income people, and his habit of trying to pull off shameful deals behind close doors to benefit developers at our expense?

I can only hope that the rest of you recognize that Mr. Evans is on his way out and do not pick up his bad habits, lest you follow him out as well. I needn't remind you all of a similar maneuver that Mr. Evans tried to execute almost exactly one year ago today, that time to give his wealthy developer pal, the “King of Georgetown”, Anthony Lanier, and Eastbanc a library, a fire station, and a police station. That, too, was an “emergency”. Giving away our public property to wealthy developers to build luxury condominiums without even the facade of public input is indeed an emergency, and one that must stop.

We, the public, must not be deprived of our rightful chance to give input, and to determine the fate and use of our collective public property, to satisfy Mr. Evans' desire to drive the homeless from Franklin (and out of DC altogether if he could have his way) to please the downtown BID. Shameful, deceitful, and dishonest are the only words that I can think of to describe what Mr. Evans has done, and continues to try to do. That is, to make deals behind closed doors to give away our community-serving public property, to benefit wealthy developers at our expense, and to do so at the midnight hour and hope he doesn't get caught. Then, when he's caught red-handed, he backtracks and tries to play dumb. Well, I for one, don't buy it, and you shouldn't either.

Please, do the right thing and allow Central Union Mission to move to their new site on Georgia Avenue,, or to remain at their current site. Renovate, and reopen the Gales School as this government promised to do, and keep the Franklin School open as a shelter until it is no longer needed, which it clearly is now. Pass comprehensive, true reform of Title X this council period to fix the city's badly broken laws about public property, so that these back door deals will stop, and our public property can finally begin to serve our many community needs that continue to go unmet.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Many are they who could tell you of just how disenfranchised the homeless often feel. They often receive promises from politicians, especially during election season. All too often those promises are broken. Even the cabinet members that are appointed by elected officials tend to make and break promises. Then there is the shelter staff to deal with. Some have a genuine concern for the people that are placed under their care. Others couldn't care less about their homeless clients. Then again, there are the homeless advocates who care but have limited resources and influence. All-in-all, the homeless have good reason to feel disenfranchised and to assume that there is no way out of their predicament.

I was a facilitator at a meeting which was held at One Judiciary Square on December 9th, 2006, by members of Mayor Fenty's transition team. The purpose of the meeting was to gather the concerns of the homeless community and take them to Mayor-elect Fenty. More than 80 homeless people showed up. The 15 people in my group were rattling off their concerns so quickly that I had measurable difficulty writing them all down.

I also have comments from multiple Inter-agency Council on Homelessness (ICH) hearings in my e-mail account. (I'm always glad to send them out upon request.) Nonetheless, on June 12th of this year, I heard complaints from the homeless community that are identical to those mentioned in 2006 and 2007. They've yet to be addressed. The homeless have come out in force and spoken up for themselves. They've waited patiently for DC government to act on their behalf. They’re still waiting. It's high time we moved to Plan B (not the pill).

At the ICH meeting on June 12th, man after man stood up and spoke of being treated disrespectfully by staff and physically abused by security at different shelters. They explained that, when they complain to shelter management, they are asked if there were any witnesses. As one man put it," They act as if, if there aren't any witnesses, it didn't happen." Several of them had multiple stories to tell. One man claimed to have six stories in addition to his own where he witnessed security abusing shelter residents. It was also pointed out that the police fail to respond when a resident calls because he or she is being abused by security. However, the police come quickly when security calls about a shelter resident. The city administrator, Dan Tangherlini, suggested that the man who witnessed six other people being abused give his accounts to the officer that was present in the meeting.

Several days after the meeting, a woman told me that she had been waiting for at least one woman to stand up and speak. None did, with the exception of a certain woman who felt that those who were complaining about their treatment at shelters were just being plain unappreciative. The woman who'd been waiting to see others speak first explained that she'd promised the director of her shelter that she would speak first with the director before taking her complaints elsewhere. She also explained just how disenfranchised the women at her shelter felt and expressed a desire to see the homeless men, such as myself, stand up for the women. I'd be glad to. I'm flattered.

Some people think that the homeless lack any ability to organize themselves. The homeless are often being mistreated. Those whom the homeless count on to vindicate and protect them are not coming through. Taken together, all of this means that the homeless must organize and advocate for themselves. They'd disprove the stereotypes, for one thing. Furthermore, they'd show that they just won't stand for the mistreatment. They'd force people to respect them. They'd also see what they can do when they put their minds to it. After all, one of the reasons that some people remain homeless is that they have gotten used to having so much done FOR them, not BY them. That much having been said, failing to adequately serve the homeless population may be one of the best things that DC Government and various service providers have ever done insomuch as it has forced the homeless to take the reins of control and to save themselves. And so I charge the homeless to take heart and be a part of the solution. Let’s organize ourselves.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

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
( )
Homeless Advocate, G.A.B. (Government Agitating Bigmouth)
Until We're Home, inc.,
Make LOVE, not war.

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