THE TRUTH IS OUT!!!!! : How The Mayor's Housing Plan Is Going

DC Mayor Adrian M. Fenty touted his Permanent Supportive Housing plan as justification for closing Franklin School Shelter (which was closed on Sept. 26th, 2008). He said that he would have AT LEAST 300 men placed in PSH prior to the shelter closure. He actually met that goal shortly AFTER closing Franklin. The date on which he met that goal is just a small matter insomuch as he DID meet it. He also promised a downtown, low-barrier men's shelter with 150 beds. Franklin had 300. That half-size shelter has yet to materialize.

What is noteworthy is the fact that on September 3rd only 3 people had been housed. Less than a month later, that number stood at around 250. While it is laudible effort to house DC's homeless, the nascent housing program (which was only conceived in April, 2008) was not given enough time to blossom prior to the mayor closing another homeless shelter. Furthermore, the funding for the PSH program was slashed in November due to the economic downturn. Though it was the mayor instituted the housing program and the council who slashed funds, this still amounts to something in the way of a bait and switch. The public's acceptance of the proposed shelter closure was predicated, at least in part, on them beleiving that all Franklin School Shelter residents would be housed, which brings me to my point.....


First of all, I'd like the public to know that Adrian Fenty (a man) is not housing the homeless out of concern for them. He HAD TO do that in order to justify the shelter closure, especially with it having occurred on the eve of hypothermia. His main reason for closing Franklin School Shelter is that he was being pressured by the business community to get the homeless out of Downtown; because, they are perceived to be an eyesore. Furthermore, the historic Franklin School (from which the first telephone message was sent) is worth $12 mil. Throughout the controversial closure process, Mayor Fenty claimed to have "no plans for the building". However, I have proof positive that the DC DNA (Downtown Neighborhood Assoc.) has asked the mayor to send out RFPs for Franklin School. Add to this the fact that most of the $3.8 mil. that he has raised toward his 2010 mayoral run has come from developers, law firms, millionaires and billionaires and you'll begin to see that his housing plan is not at all the result of him caring for the homeless.

One might argue that, regardless of his motives, the homeless should take whatever they can get from the mayor. I agree. Nonetheless, if we close homeless shelters as we create housing, that leaves nowhere for those who will become homeless in the future to go. Let me remind you that we are experiencing a depression. Taken together this means that the mayor wants to house the homeless that DC already has and close most or all homeless shelters so that anyone else who BECOMES homeless in the future will need to go to other jurisdictions to receive assistance. He will have closed the homeless shelters in DC. The other homeless services and human services are bound to follow suit. In short, the mayor is taking care of those whom he can't legally leave on the streets to die where they lie. He is also making sure to decrease DC Government's capacity to care for any newcomers to the system. He is definitely a neoliberal.

I also want to clarify the issue of how many former Franklin School Shelter residents were actually housed. Many people (including the homeless) misunderstood this matter. Many gave their support due to their lack of knowledge on the issue. The mayor has also failed to adequately explain himself to a public which he knew was unaware of how his plan would actually work.

That much having been said, the mayor planned to house at least 300 men (not counting women and children) prior to the Franklin closure. He never said that all 300 would come from Franklin School Shelter. 86 actually came from Franklin. Franklin held at least 300 men on any given night. DC Dept.of Human Services records indicate that approx. 1,000 men used Franklin School Shelter over the course of 3 months. Washington, DC has at least 6,000 homeless people. (This doesn't count couch surfers who live temporarily with various family members -- one night here and one night there. Neither does it include those living in their cars. It is presumed that some of those living in shelters and on the streets get missed during the point-in-time homeless counts.) So, for all his efforts, 300 or so units is only a drop in the bucket when compared to the actual numbers of homeless people. Nonetheless, for what it's worth, I'll applaud his efforts. Clap. Clap.

Finally, the public should be made aware that, according to an e-mail exchange between a DHS employee and an acquaintance of mine, DHS had housed 403 homeless people as of December 11th, 2008. They have now housed 405. Only 2 more people have been housed in 2 months. This helps to make the case that Mayor Fenty only housed hundreds of homeless people in an effort to justify the Franklin School Shelter closure and satisfy the business community. Now that DC's only downtown, low-barrier shelter for men has been closed, RFPs for the building are in the making and the homeless "eyesores" have been removed from Downtown for the most part, the mayor is not so gung-ho about housing the homeless anymore.....



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