Court Case To Improve Homeless Services and Create Housing -- also -- Reversing The budget Cuts

As you know, the mayor has begun a Housing First program called Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). Though it has its flaws, it is a step in the right direction. However, it is important for homeless advocates to continue to prod him to improve his program. Unfortunately, many people have stopped fighting for improvements to homeless services, most likely because they feel that the creation of Permanent Supportive Housing was enough to prove that the mayor has a genuine desire to help the homeless and that the homeless are being helped sufficiently, neither of which is true.

Let me remind you that it was Councilman Fenty who promised to keep Franklin School open as a shelter while he was running for mayor, only to close it shortly after becoming mayor. After becoming mayor, he also promised to create a downtown shelter that was half the size of Franklin Shelter while at a WIN (Washington Inter-faith Network) meeting on April 7th, 2008. In addition to breaking these and other promises, he has a campaign underway to push the homeless to the outskirts of town and to sweep the problem of homelessness under the rug. Add to this the fact that shortly after closing Franklin School Shelter, the DC Council began to cut the budgets for various social programs. The housing First Program had its $19.2 million budget slashed by at least $8 million. Then dozens of homeless advocates descended on City Hall and got DC Government to give some of it back. All things considered, he seems to have created the PSH program only to appease the public, justify the franklin closure and make sure that his campaign against the homeless was not too overt and obvious.

Not to worry. The fight continues. This Friday, January 30th, 2009, there will be a courtcase to reopen Franklin Shelter or create a replacement downtown shelter as well as to improve other homeless services. It will take place in DC Superior Court at 500 Indiana Ave. at 9 AM this Friday in Room 517.

I want you to know that the case has been expanded to include an effort to improve ALL homeless services across the city and create a sufficient amount of affordable housing. I hope to see you there.

Many of you know that a Japanese immigrant named Yoshio Nakada was brutally murdered as he slept outside on Christmas Eve. The city has been quiet on this matter, which begs the question: Do they even care? That's not to speak of the cases where several other homeless people who were sleeping outside were attacked and lived. What is the city doing to warrant against such brutal, unprovoked attacks? Come to the court hearing on Friday and confront DC Government on these and other matters.

Anyone with information about the recent death any a homeless person in DC should send that information to Jane Zara (the pro bono lawyer for Franklin School Shelter): jjzara@aol.com or to myself: ericsheptock@yahoo.com. We are especially interested in deaths that might have been caused by the abrupt and untimely Franklin closure.

On a final note, when the DC Council cut the budgets to several much-needed social programs in November, they said that they would review the DC Budget in February and see if it was feasible to return the funds that had been taken back to the respective departments. February is right around the corner. People regularly ask me when the government will resume housing people. I keep telling them that it will happen, at the soonest, in February. Unfortunately, a homeless advocate that I spoke to this morning had rather grim expectations. She believes that when the Council reviews the budget, they will decide against returning the money that they took for a rainy day fund. Even more unfortunately, I believe that she may indeed be right. We'll see what happens. Stay tuned.

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