Thursday, October 30, 2008

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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Friday, October 17, 2008

My Testimony Pertaining To The Elimination Of The Housing Authority Waitlist

The following is my testimony that I read before Councilman Marion Barry (Ward 8) at a hearing on October 16th. The hearing had to do with DC Government's proposed elimination of the Housing Authority's waitlist, which some people have been on for over a decade while waiting for housing.

I, Eric Sheptock, am against the elimination of the housing authority’s waitlist for a number of reasons, not the least of which is mismanagement by the Dept. of Human Services (DHS)of the Permanent Supportive Housing Program. It is my understanding that 350 housing choice vouchers were transferred from the Section 8 program to the Permanent Supportive Housing Program, the latter of which is a program that was designed to house DC’s chronic homeless population, ostensibly anyway. It is important to note that the mayor has not created any additional housing. He has essentially robbed Peter to pay Paul. To make matters worse, the voucher program is being managed much less efficiently after the transfer than before.

I was recently informed that the Permanent Supportive Housing Program is governed by the same federal regulations that govern the Section 8 program, being that funds were transferred from that federally funded program. This bridges the 2 programs together in a manner of speaking.

People are either losing or giving up their units for several reasons. Some have rats and roaches in their units. Some people are being placed in bad neighborhoods that are plagued with drugs and violence. Some have been given apartments in Trinidad, the same part of town that the police had on lockdown just months ago due to its high crime rate. This doesn’t make it any easier for those just getting over addictions to abstain from using. They are finding that they felt much safer at the shelters and returning to them.

Then there are those whose addictions and mental issues have not been adequately dealt with. Some of them are selling the furniture that came with their new apartment unit. In at least one instance, the man sold his furniture about 30 minutes after receiving his keys and entering the apartment. Still others are subletting the units that they got for free.

Furthermore, the original plan for Permanent Supportive Housing called for the creation of several levels of care. There was supposed to be scattered-site housing for the formerly homeless who don’t need very close monitoring. That consists of a voucher program that enables the formerly homeless person to live somewhat independently in an apartment unit. The scattered-site housing then subdivides into 2 intensity levels as far as monitoring is concerned.

Then there is also supposed to be what is called site-based housing. That would consist of DC Government owning the building. There would be apartment units upstairs and service providers downstairs. They would include psychiatrists and psychologists. If a person has an episode, someone downstairs could be alerted immediately. The problem with this type of housing is that it hasn’t been created yet. Those who need the close monitoring are being rushed into the scattered-site housing, to the detriment of them and those living around them. And it’s all because the mayor wants to give a building to a developer and rub the backs of others in the business community.

Add to all of this the fact that the homeless were given priority on housing and vouchers were taken away from the Section 8 program and it doesn’t look too good. Many people have waited 5, 10 even 15 years for housing. Some thought that they were very close to being housed. Then, all of a sudden, their hopes are thwarted as the Section 8 program was essentially robbed by the PSH program. This is enough to make anyone mad. Even as a homeless man, I say that this isn’t right. Nonetheless, I’d accept adequate housing if it were offered to me.

I have 2 solutions for the problems that I’ve mentioned here today. The first is to address the philosophical fiasco that is known as “Housing first”. Rather than listing addiction as a mental illness and rewarding the addict with housing so that he or she can abuse the system, let’s house the best of the worst first. House the homeless people who have the least issues first. House those whose issues are not of a mental or behavioral nature. Have those with current or recent addictions to wait until the site-based housing is built.

The other is to transfer some of the units back to Section 8. After all, someone who is living with family or friends might be willing to defer to those with no place to live; however, I’d expect them to be enraged if they were to find that that housing was eventually abused and misused by its recipient. Let’s fix the Permanent Supportive Housing program or return those vouchers to their rightful owner, Section 8.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

POLICE BRUTALITY AT THE 801 EAST SHELTER

On the night of October 9th, 2008, several homeless men including myself witnessed police brutality at the 801 East (MLK, Jr.) Homeless Shelter. It is quite possible that the staff and/or security exhibited gross negligence and dereliction of duties. I was able to gather information after everything was over that indicated that the incident could've been avoided.


There had been an altercation between 2 residents at the shelter around 10 PM. One resident hit another. Having been alerted by the loud arguing, Hawk One Security arrived on the scene and was able to pull the men apart before a return blow could be thrown. They eventually had the victim who'd been attacked by the other resident to go to bed. He slept in my dorm. I couldn't see what became of his attacker. He slept in another dorm. I assume that he was allowed to return to his bed as well. I was told that the victim's name was Michael Williams and his attacker was named Rob.

In accordance with protocol, Protective Services was called. When they arrived, an officer went to the victim to get him out of bed. They walked into the hall to speak. At one point, the PSD officer began to ask the victim for ID. The victim refused to produce ID; because, he knew and was asserting his rights. 801 East is a low-barrier shelter. A person doesn't need to show ID in order to gain access to a low barrier shelter. They don't even need to give their real name. (According to Dallas Williams, the director of the Office of Shelter Monitoring, that right to refuse to show ID extends only as far as gaining access to a low-barrier shelter; and, a person still has to show ID to an officer of the flaw.)

From my bunk, I could hear the officer repeatedly asking for the man's ID. I couldn't hear the victim's response with him having the softer voice. The officer's repeated requests were evidence of the victim's refusal. Eventually, the officer snatched the victim's bag from him and ordered him to put his hands behind his back. The victim refused, presumably due to the factthat he felt that his rights were being violated.

Five officers proceeded to jump on him, stepping on his face and neck, kneeing him in the side and back, twisting his arms and altogether abusing him. Several residents including myself jumped out of bed to witness the incident. we and the victim slept in F Dorm. Men from D and E Dorms also came out to witness the incident. The officers told us to clear the hall. we didn't. we wanted to serve as witnesses to the police brutality. Several of us have filled out grievances and handed them in to Catholic Charities.

The incident took place in the hall between F Dorm and the cafeteria. From the entrance to F Dorm to the end of the hall going toward the cafeteria is about 40 feet. As one gets to that end of the hall, they must then make a left turn into a smaller hall before entering the cafeteria. The police were abusing the man about 20 feet from us. There is a security camera at the end of the hall where one would turn to go into the cafeteria. Can somebody acquire that tape, please?

It is my understanding that the attacker was in the program on the 2nd floor. He supposedly was caught drunk and was made to go downstairs for a night as punishment. Furthermore, the attacker had a run-in with Hawk One Security before any of the afforementioned trouble arose. Hawk One failed to sufficiently deal with the drunk man and that man eventually became the attacker in the altercation that I described above. The man who was eventually beaten up by Protective Services had been the victim in the altercation and was further victimized by Protective Services.

The names of the officers involved are as follows:

R. Moultrie -- Badge # 202 (female)
L. Williams -- Badge # 409
J. Barbuia -- Badge # 163
Strickland -- Badge # 100
Bailey -- Badge # 122

At least one of them (Strickland) might actually work for MPD.

I hope that a full-blown investigation is launched so as to completely and comprehensively deal with the matter of police brutality at the shelters. This matter was brought up at the June 12th ICH meeting. According to Dallas Williams, those accusations were against Hawk One Security and have since been addressed. This latest incident is a clear indication of the fact that we still have much work to do.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

How To Get A Meeting With Mayor Fenty

Page 54 of the October 2008 issue of Hill Rag contains an article about DC Mayor Adrian Fenty which aptly describes what I know to be true about him. As he indicated during a meeting that he held with ONE DC ( a grassroots organizer)on October 8th, 2008, he can be headstrong and assertive. (I attended that meeting as a collaborator, though I am not a member of ONE DC.)However, what stood out to me was a certain consistency that I see in how one can get a meeting with the mayor. In order to help you to better understand what I am about to explain, I must take you back about 6 weeks and explain an earlier attempt to meet with the mayor.

On August 19th, 2008, approximately 30 people -- homeless people, homeless advocates and supporters from local churches and the DC community at large -- did a walk-around at the Wilson Building (City Hall). It consisted of us going to the offices of the various city council members to present our cause: keeping Franklin Shelter open for the homeless men who need it. During our walk-around, we also stopped into the mayor's executive office. He supposedly wasn't there. We spoke to one of his staffers and tried to set up an appointment. She said that she would contact us with a meeting time and date. That was the last we heard from her. Our group sensed that the staffer was reluctant to arrange a meeting with the mayor and that we probably wouldn't be afforded an audience before him any time soon, if ever. Therefore, we decided to plan a trip to his house.

On the morning of August 21st, a homeless man approached me to tell me of his experience with the police. He explained that he and several other homeless men sleep outdoors in the Georgetown area. He stated that on the evening of August 19th, the police came and told him and the other homeless men in Georgetown that they had to go to the NY Ave. Homeless Shelter. He also stated that the police had said something about 30 people having gone to the mayor's office. It would seem to be a good thing to tell someone to go indoors to sleep. However, it is not illegal to sleep outdoors in Washington, DC. The fact that the police only gave this mandate after 30 people visited the mayor's office on behalf of the homeless makes this look like a mild form of retribution. The statements by the police help to enforce that. Bear in mind that the man who told me this story was not present at the mayor's office. He is not a community activist. Neither had I told him about our trip to the mayor's office prior to him telling me his story. It looks as if the mayor is trying to discourage people from approaching him.

On the evening of August 21st, about 2 dozen of us arrived at the mayor's house in the Gold Coast Area (near Rock Creek Park). We lambasted him with signs and chants for the planned closure of Franklin Shelter. He arrived about 40 minutes after we did. He spoke with us for several minutes (possibly due to media coverage) and promised to meet with us. He didn't want to carry on the meeting right then and there, as several of us asked him to. We arranged for 4 of us to meet with him on August 25th, just 4 days later. The meeting took place at the People's Building at 64 NY Ave. Clarence Carter, the director of DHS was present as well. It is important to note that, while Mayor Fenty met with us, he'd already dug his heels in and was unwilling to budge. Franklin has since been closed. It doesn't do much good to converse if nothing is going to change as a result of the conversation. The conversation was just a fruitless formality. To his credit, he didn't fumble with his blackberry or cell phone as a show of disinterest in the meeting, which i've heard of him doing at other meetings. I think our energy kept him engaged.

Franklin Shelter was closed on the morning of September 26th, 2008. That afternoon the Committee 2 Save Franklin (CSFS) held a rally in front of the Wilson Bldg. It began around 3:30 PM. At about 4:20, approximately 50 people attempted to enter the building so as to meet with the mayor. Security told us that only 15 of us would be allowed in, even though it is a public building and everyone is entitled to enter. We narrowed it down to the 15 that would go to see the mayor. About 10 security officers stood guard over our group as we waited to see the mayor. We knew that he had a meeting at 4:30 with someone else and planned to wait until that meeting was over to speak with him. (His schedule is public information.) We got word that a representative of the mayor would come to meet with us. That never happened. Then, the mayor had people to lie for him and say that he had left the building. We knew otherwise, due to both of his vehicles having been parked outside still -- his Smart and his Navigator. We decided to wait him out. Then, wouldn't you know it?! A few minutes after 6 here comes none other than the mayor himself, as he walked out of the Wilson with about 10 cops. He refused to talk to us, walked past us, got in his navigator and drove off. We couldn't meet with OUR mayor.

The grassroots organizers ONE DC invited the Committee 2 Save Franklin (CSFS) to go to the mayor's house with them on October 6th so as to make him keep his promises to create affordable housing. About 50 people rode a chartered bus to his house. We began to heckle him about his broken promises -- the promise to keep Franklin open as a shelter and the promise to create affordable housing on Parcel 42. This time he arrived less than 10 minutes after us. Once again he spoke with us and arranged a meeting for October 8th. Though the meeting was not all that productive in my opinion, he DID show up and learn a thing or 2 about ONE DC and the need for affordable housing. The meeting took place in the conference room on the 11th floor of One Judiciary Square.

The mayor consistently refuses to meet with grassroots groups at the Wilson Building. He never seems too happy when we show up at his house either. However, when we go to his house, he meets with us in a matter of days. This seems to be incentive for us to go to his house in order to make appointments with him. One would think that he would be more receptive to the idea of arranging meetings from his office. Several people have told me that he might change his behavior as soon as I publish this information. It stands to reason that he would. Let's see what happens. So, if you are a DC resident and you want to meet with your mayor, just go to his house in large numbers with plenty of media coverage (at least one TV/video camera). Another thing to take note of is the fact that neither meeting took place in the Wilson Building, where his office is. Is Mayor Adrian Fenty too embarrassed to be seen in or near his office with grassroots groups and organizers? He's a mad, mad, mad, mad mayor.

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

DANGEROUS, ILLEGAL AND UNRELIABLE TRANSPORTATION

From: Eric Sheptock
Subject: A Dangerous, Illegal Mode of Transportation To and From the 801 East Shelter.....

To: "Adrian Fenty" , "Adrian Fenty" , "Adrian Fenty" , "Adrian Fenty" mayor@dc.gov

3 of his e-mails disappear when I publish the post. Use the 1 that remains to contact him about the following situations.

Also read the post below this one if you haven't already. It explains "Sheptock vs. Fenty", the court case around re-opening Franklin Shelter. I feel honored to have my name on a court case against a lying, insidious "mayor that doesn't care".


Date: Saturday, October 4, 2008, 12:17 PM

The men who reside at the 801 East shelter on the grounds of St. Elizabeth's Hospital are being transported in a manner that is both dangerous and illegal. I plan to contact the police about it if nothing is done and I mean like yesterday, Mayor Fenty.

All,

You are free to forward, post and publish the following information. Notice that I have sent this to the mayor. He can't claim ignorance. I've sent it to 4 e-mails of his. I'm sure that he'll see it at least once. (If I stop in the middle of a thought, it means that my time ran out on the library computer.)

DANGEROUS, ILLEGAL AND UNRELIABLE TRANSPORTATION

TO AND FROM HOMELESS SHELTERS In the Boonies



I have been staying at the 801 East (MLK, Jr.) Shelter since Friday, September 26th, 2008. The Park and rec. buses have taken us to and from the shelter each day that I've been there. However, I've done some investigating and found that that hasn't always been the case. The men have only been driven back into town in the mornings for about a week now. Until then, they had to walk 4 miles and cross over a bridge that has no sidewalks or side lanes, which is quite dangerous if not illegal. I have also witnessed gross over-crowding of the bus, which I know is illegal.

The story began about 6 months ago. Around March of this year, the same Park and Rec. bus which transported men to and from the shelter was being used to transport children when it rolled over on its side. Needless to say, that bus is out of commission. The driver who was driving that bus at the time was the same man who drove the shelter residents into town in the morning. The city supposedly couldn't afford to pay the evening driver overtime. They therefore eliminated the morning bus coming from the shelter Monday through Friday. The men had to walk back downtown 5 days a week. The bus continued to operate 7 nights per week bringing men to the shelter, but only brought them back downtown on Saturday and Sunday.

Then the Franklin shelter was closed. Many of those who opposed the Franklin closure touted the unreliable transportation between 801 East and Downtown as one of their reasons. The city realized that they would need to improve the transportation in order to pacify the Pro-Franklinists. Those who've been at 801 East longer than me have told me that, as of today (October 4th), the 7-day morning bus service has only been functional for about a week. They claim that it was only restarted as a result of the Franklin closure. (Franklin was closed on the morning of September 26th.)

With the full-sized bus having turned over, a mini-bus is being used to transport the men. It seats 16 passengers legally. This morning I counted 12 people, myself included, who were standing in the aisle or sitting on the floor in the rear cargo area for a total of 28 men. The bus does not have ceiling rails or handles for standing passengers. We were holding the backs of seats that have no handles of any kind on them. As the driver sped through curves, those of us who were standing began to sway with the centrifugal force. I see the ingredients for another roll-over accident. I feel unsafe. Even if I were guaranteed a seat, someone might fall on me and even the seated passengers get hurt during a roll-over.

In addition to the unsafe driving conditions, the bus only makes 3 trips in the morning and 3 trips in the evening for a shelter that houses over 400 men. With its grossly illegal capacity, it still doesn't serve a quarter of the residents. The men bum rush the bus in an effort to get a ride and not have to wait 30 to 45 minutes for the next bus. In the morning, the first bus arrives around 6:30. The second arrives anywhere between 7 and 7:20. If there even is a 3rd, which is not always the case, it arrives at the shelter around 8 AM. In any case, it takes about 15 minutes to get Downtown. Now you can see why the men don't like going to 801 East.

Several men stopped me in the park this morning as I made my rounds. They told me their concerns pertaining to transportation to and from both 801 East and the NY Ave. Shelter, with me having already discussed the 801 East situation with other residents earlier.

I've been told that a UPO van used to bring men to NY Ave. A man told me this morning that Pat Handy stated on or about September 26th that there would be no more UPO bus service to NY Ave. In essence, they only provided bus service long enough to justify closing Franklin Shelter. This man was concerned with the elderly men who need to walk up to 4 miles to get to the shelter, some of them being on canes. All of them suggested that the UPO bus service to and from NY Ave. be resumed. Let's not do a bait and switch. Some of the homeless accepted going to other shelters due to there being suitable transportation. To remove that suitable transportation now that they've moved would amount to a bait and switch. Don't tempt them to commandeer a bus.

ADJUSTED FORMAL STORAGE POLICY AT 801 EAST


Paul J. Amara, the senior program manager at 801 East, circulated a notice pertaining to the storage policy for all former Franklin residents on the evening of October 3rd. It gave us permission to use our foot lockers from Franklin until October 15th. (Franklin had foot lockers that were transported to 801 East after the Franklin closure. 801 East has wall lockers.) We are expected to use the wall lockers come the 15th. In the notice, he has given permission to use the foot lockers after the 15th if we have not been issued a wall locker. You should be made aware that beds were recently added to 801 East. It now has more beds than lockers. The beds are less than 2 feet apart. Ordering more wall lockers would make us feel a little more like sardines as they would take up even more floor space. Let's keep the foot lockers indefinitely.

Please contact Mr. Amara with your concerns and ask for a paper copy of his notice.
HIS NUMBER IS: (202) 409-9329.

All roads lead back to Franklin, not Rome.

It behooves DC Gov. to house me so that I get less first-hand experience and second-hand information pertaining to the homeless issue.

I will post this on my blog.

Eric Jonathan Sheptock
www.streats.tv/shep.html
925 13th St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20005-4005
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/franklin/

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Update on Franklin Shelter lawsuit, filed on behalf of former inhabitants of Franklin Shelter.

There will a status hearing with Judge Retchin in courtroom 516 on
Wednesday, Oct. 8, at 9:30am in Superior Court, 500 Indiana Ave, NW,
WDC to schedule a hearing on the merits of motion for a preliminary
injunction (to reopen Franklin Shelter). Plaintiffs (old and new) will
meet at MLK library on Monday, Oct 6, at 5:00 pm. Anyone interested in
either helping with the logistics of the lawsuit(s), or joining the
lawsuit as plaintiffs, please come by MLK on Monday night or send your
contact info to us.

Update:
We alleged violation of a few statutes (4-753.01 and 4-754.2, requiring
the city to prepare adequately to provide shelter for those in need
when the temperature is freezing and below), and 10-801 (Surplusing
Act: requiring public input and economic accountability by the mayor
prior to changing the disposition of a public property) (e.g. prior to
shuttering the shelter and preparing it for sale to developers), as
well as procedural due process violations (in denying persons
fundamental rights without due process). We could not sue about
violation of the Franklin Shelter Closing Requirements Emergency Act of
2008 (Bill 17-923) because Fenty had not signed it into law. He
legally had until Oct 1 to sign or veto it, and chose to sit on the
bill until the last possible moment. In the meantime, Fenty closed
Franklin Shelter at 7:00 in the morning on Sept 26, although this bill
clearly required that he satisfy numerous requirements dealing with
the needs for shelter PRIOR to closing the shelter.

We had a hearing which took place at Superior Court on Sept. 30 and Oct
1 before Judge Duncan-Peters and lasted about 8 hours in total. This
hearing concerned a motion filed for a temporary restraining order
(TRO) to try to immediately reopen the shelter. The TRO would have
lasted for a maximum of 10 days.

The TRO was denied for several reasons, some of which I will elaborate.
Four prongs must be satisfied for a TRO, and the judge felt we
satisfied two of them: 1. that more harm will result to plaintiffs from
the denial of the TRO than to the nonmovant (the city) from the TRO
being granted, and 2. the public interest will not be disserved by
grant of the TRO. We failed to satisfy the other two prongs: 3. there
is a substantial likelihood plaintiffs will prevail on the merits; and
4. plaintiffs are in danger of suffering irreparable harm during the
pendency of the action.

The judge will provide a written opinion, and we are in process of
getting transcripts of the hearing. Her reasons for determining that
plaintiffs did not satisfy the two prongs above included the fact that
the most vulnerable plaintiffs were not listed as indiv
idual
plaintiffs, but instead were included under the umbrella of the
Committee to Save Franklin Shelter. (We hope to challenge this legal
interpretation of denying the right of unincorporated organizations to
sue on behalf of their members). There was great difficulty in listing
all of the plaintiffs that wanted to be part of the lawsuit at the
time of initially filing because, as you recall, things were very crazy
the day of the 26th.

It was raining cats and dogs the morning of Sept 26, the men were
awakened between 6 and 7am, and, without prior warning, abruptly told
to immediately leave the shelter. They were then refused reentry,
while trucks moved up to remove their belongings. Inhabitants were
previously told the shelter would close on Oct 1. So we did the best
we could in locating plaintiffs before filing the lawsuit that morning.
So the most vulnerable plaintiffs were the most difficult to locate
that morning, because they had scattered in the rain. And so the judge
could not consider their harm for the TRO. That will change for the
next stage, because lots of former inhabitants of Franklin have since
stepped forward and will be added to plaintiff list. There was also no
imminent harm found because it is not freezing temperature yet (now you
see why Fenty closed the shelter when he did…). And we couldn’t sue
under failure to comply with Franklin Shelter Closing
Requirements
Emergency Act, because Fenty refused to sign it into law before
abruptly closing the shelter.

The second difficulty was that the judge thought that there was no
private cause of action under the Surplusing Act (10-801) (which is an
interesting debacle, since ANC’s are forbidden by law to file a lawsuit
as ANC’s: this will be fun to sort out in the future.) This also shows
why Councilman Thomas’ version of a proposed revised surplusing bill,
which includes a citizen’s attorneys general clause, is SO VITAL
because it gives citizens the right to sue. And a most interesting
thing is that Fenty’s procedural contortions only allowed for the
Franklin shelter emergency bill to turn into law after the hearing
began (the nite of the 30th), so we could not allege violation of it at
the time the shelter was closed. Instead we could only show evidence
as to why it hasn't been complied with as it applied to our immediate
lawsuit. And the city filed a report at 5:01pm, the nite of the 30th
asserting that they have fulfilled the requirements to close Franklin
shelter. All of this in spite of the fact that the bill clearly stated
that the requirements had to be fulfilled PRIOR to the shelter’s
closing. Plaintiffs asserted that the requirements for the bill have
not been fulfilled, especially in light of the cursory report provided
by the city, which clearly shows that the20city has made NO real
assessment of the needs for shelter this winter.

So we were constrained by these things, but it makes things so
interesting legally, although difficult. Nevertheless the public will
be able to see through these Fenty’s charades. The judge also thought
that it is the council’s duty to say that the report does not fulfill
the requirements set forth by the Franklin Shelter Closing Requirements
Emergency Act, and that it is not up to citizens individually to be
able to evaluate the report released the night of Sept 30 (again, the
emergency bill has no citizen’s attorneys general clause, so no
inference of a right of private action to sue for violation of it,
according to the judge). So let’s hope the council has the spine to
fairly evaluate the city’s report, and to find it fails to accurately
assess the needs for shelter this winter, and therefore fails to
satisfy what is required to legally close the shelter.

The good news is that many witnesses got to provide testimony on the
stand as to how they have been affected by the closing of the shelter.
The testimony is very moving and lasted for hours. We also better
understand the case law and statutory requirements we must address at
the next stage. We filed a motion for a preliminary and permanent
injunction last Friday as well, and will push forward on this front.

Plaintiffs also asked if Judge D
uncan-Peters would be willing to
mediate between the city and those before her in court that day in
pushing the process forward to obtain supportive permanent housing. We
are waiting to see if the city is willing to do this, but have not
heard back from them so far. This is independent of, and hopefully will
be parallel to the ongoing lawsuit.

JZ

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sheptock vs. Fenty (An Update On The Franklin Shelter Lawsuit)

I, Eric Sheptock, posted a message from an e-mail that the lawyer who is handling this case pro bono sent me. She is even coming out of pocket for the court fees. Bless her heart.


Update on Franklin Shelter lawsuit, filed on behalf of former
inhabitants of Franklin Shelter.


We alleged violation of a few statutes, two dealing with the
requirement that the city provide shelter for those in need when the
temperature is freezing and below, and the other one requiring public
input when changing the disposition of a public property, as well as
procedural due process violations.

We had a hearing which took place at Superior Court on Sept. 29 and 30
before Judge Duncan-Peters and lasted about 8 hours in total. It was
concerning a motion filed for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to
try to reopen the shelter and would have lasted for 10 days.

The TRO was denied for several reasons, some of which I will elaborate.
Four prongs must be satisfied for a TRO, and the judge felt we
satisfied two of them: that more harm will result to plaintiffs from
the denial of the injunction than to the nonmovant (the city) from the
TRO being granted, and the public interest will not be disserved by
grant of the TRO. We failed to satisfy the other two prongs: there is
a substantial likelihood plaintiffs will prevail on the merits; and
they are in danger of suffering irreparable harm during the pendency of
the action.

The judge will provide a written opinion, and we are in process of
getting transcripts of the hearing. Her reasons for not satisfying the
two prongs above included20the fact that the most vulnerable plaintiffs
were not listed as individual plaintiffs, but instead were included
under the umbrella of the Committee to Save Franklin Shelter. The
reasons for this included the difficulty of getting in touch with all
who wanted to be plaintiffs prior to filing the complaint (As you
recall, things were very crazy the day of the 26th, so we did the best
we could in locating plaintiffs before filing that morning.). So the
most vulnerable people's harm could be considered. That will change
for the next stage, because lots of former inhabs of Franklin have
since stepped forward and will be added to plaintiff list. There was
also no imminent harm because it is not hypothemic temperatures yet
(now you see why Fenty closed the shelter when he did…).

The second difficulty was that the judge thought that there was no
private cause of action under the suplusing act (which is an
interesting debacle, since ANC’s are forbidden by law to file a lawsuit
as ANC’s: this will be fun to sort out in the future.) This also
shows why CM Thomas’ version of a proposed surplusing bill, which
includes a citizen’s attorney general's clause, is SO VITAL.). And a
most interesting thing is that Fenty’s procedural contortions only
allowed for the Franklin shelter emergency bill to turn into law after
the hearing began (the nite of the 30th), so we could not
allege violation of it, only show evidence as to why it hasn't been complied
with as it applied to our immediate lawsuit. And the city filed a
report at 5:01pm, the nite of the 30th asserting that they have
fulfilled the requirements to close Franklin shelter. All of this in
spite of the fact that the bill clearly stated that the requirements
had to be fulfilled PRIOR to the shelter’s closing. Plaintiffs
asserted that the requirements for the bill have not been fulfilled, as
shown in the city’s report, and put that on the record, and why, in
light of the cursory report provided by the city.

So we were constrained by these things, but it makes things so
interesting legally, although difficult. Nevertheless the public will
be able to see through these charades of Fenty’s. The judge also
thought that it is the council’s duty to say that the report does not
fulfill the requirements set forth by the emergency bill law, and that
it is not up to citizens individually to be able to evaluate the report
in light of the newly passed Franklin emergency law (again, the
emergency bill has no citizens attorney general’s clause, so no
inference of a right of private action to sue for violation of it,
according to the judge). So let’s hope the council has the spine to
fairly evaluate the city’s report, and to find it fails to satisfy what
is required to20legally close the shelter.

The good news is that many witnesses got to provide testimony on the
stand as to how they have been affected by the closing of the shelter.
The testimony is very moving and lasted for hours. We also understand
the case law and statutory requirements we must address at the next
stage. We filed a motion for a preliminary and permanent injunction
last Friday as well, and will push forward.

Plaintiffs also asked if Judge Duncan-Peters would be willing to
mediate between the city and those before here in court that day about
getting into the supportive permanent housing program. We are waiting
to see if the city is willing to do this. This is independent of and
hopefull will be parallel to the ongoing lawsuit, however.

There is a status hearing with Judge Retchin in courtroom 516 on
Wednesday, Oct. 8, at 9:30 am in Superior Court, 500 Indiana Ave, NW,
WDC to schedule a future hearing on the merits. Plaintiffs (old and
new) will meet at MLK library on Monday, Oct 6, at 5:00 pm. Anyone
interested in either helping with the logistics of the lawsuit(s), or
joining as plaintiffs, please come by or send your contact info to us.

La lucha continua!!!

See you all soon,
Jane Zara

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