We've Got Michelle Obama's attention!!!!! (Fenty Is Running Scared.)

There is my blog as well as other blogs about homeless issues. Then there are the frequent news clips about homelessness and the highly contested closure of the Franklin School Shelter. Then there is Michelle Obama's visit to Miriam's Kitchen, a homeless soup kitchen. All in all, the issue of homelessness is taking center stage. As if that weren't enough, there is proof positive that the image-conscious DC mayor Adrian Fenty is running scared. See the story below.....

Michelle Obama visited Miriam's Kitchen, which feeds DC's homeless community breakfast and has other helpful programs, on Thursday, March 5th. Her visit, in and of itself, was reason enough for conversation. Nonetheless, the fact that she wasn't accompanied by the mayor is all the more reason for conversation. The homeless community is extremely disgruntled with the mayor. What's more is that they got the chance to speak to the first lady without him being there. He doesn't know what was said about him or what she will tell her husband about him.

On Friday (the day after her visit) I received 4 e-mails from a certain Brenda Perkins of DC's Dept. of Human Services. I have nothing against Brenda. I've never met her. I didn't even know that she existed before I got her e-mails. For all I know, she might be sweeter than sugar and the best thing since apple pie. As it turns out, Brenda is the point person who has been appointed by the mayor to deal with my complaints. Mayor Adrian Fenty had forwarded several of my e-mails containing complaints about homeless services to Ms. Perkins. They were several months old, dating as far back as the last week of August 2008.

I should point out that Fred Swan of DHS has been acting as my de facto point person, responding to my mass e-mails. I presume that he was put up to it by Clarence Carter, the director of DHS. Brenda, however, was appointed by the mayor himself. This amounts to micro-management on the part of the mayor. Micro-management on the part of a chief executive is usually indicative of him/her taking a special interest in a certain issue or being afraid of something going terribly awry. In this case, I'm inclined to think that it is the latter.

Add to this the fact that Mayor Fenty had Ms. Perkins responding to multiple messages in the same day (which he himself has never done before) and the fact that one of them was over 6 months old. It now begins to look as if Mayor Fenty feels a sense of urgency in addressing matters which he hereto now has been indifferent or apathetic about. With Michelle Obama having visited with the homeless and shown an interest in the issue, the mayor wants to repair his image and make ammends with the homeless community. IT'S TOO LATE FOR THAT!!!!! The mayor is running scared.

The list goes on. On February 19th, I testified at 2 hearings. The latter one was a DHS oversight hearing. I mentioned the fact that I had done some "spy work" by going to the NY Ave. Homeless Shelter and going through the check-in procedure. I said that it took 2 hours to check people in during 35 degree weather. When Clarence Carter took the stand, he was confronted by Councilman Tommy Wells about that and said that he would look into the matter. He, his employees and the general public see that many people are paying attention to the homeless in general and me in particular. (Though I've blown my cover, this doesn't preclude others from doing "spy work".)

During the Inter-agency Council on Homelessness (ICH) meeting on February 25th, several homeless people articulated several long-standing problems with the system. When it was my turn to speak, I started out by stating that I know that I seem mean at times; but, it is for the purpose of making people do their jobs and I DO appreciate what people do. I heard several groans which I took to mean that I was giving some people headaches with my adversial, whip-cracking antics. GOOD!!!!! (Another interesting note about these ICH meetings is that Police Chief Cathy Lanier has attended the last 2. This could translate into better treatment of the homeless by the police.)

The stage is set for the homeless of DC to be recognized. They need only to step up to the plate and make their case known. I hope that they will piggy-back on what has been done for them (and in some cases by them). We need not lose momentum. The homeless need to attend any and all meetings, hearings and other events that are designed with them in mind. This is our big chance!!!!! Will you rise to the challenge????? We've got their attention. Fenty is running scared.

In October 2005, former first lady Laura Bush visited the homeless during a YSOP (Youth Service Opportunities Project -- www.ysop.org) dinner at the Church of the Epiphany. Unfortunately, I began attending that church the following month and thus I missed her. (I didn't meet Michelle Obama either.) Many of us hope that Michelle Obama will visit the homeless during a YSOP dinner also. Then again, she could visit any of several shelters including CCNV or come see us at Thrive DC (the new name for DPHW/the 9:30 Club).


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