Thursday, February 26, 2009

We Demand Jobs!!!!!

I can't count the number of times that the homeless have asked me if I knew where they could get help finding a job. Some have advised me to ask the mayor for jobs for the homeless rather than shelter or housing. Then there are the ones who've suggested that they be allowed to work on an old, dilapidated government building and turn it into affordable housing. (This idea is known as "sweat equity" and has been shot down by the DC Council in the past.) Needless to say, the homeless are an industrious lot of people; but, there seems to be either a shortage of jobs or an inability on the part of DC Government and homeless service providers to connect people to the jobs that are out there. In the past I've even heard the DC Council discuss how employers often need to look outside of DC to find qualified employees due to many DC residents being unskilled.

As chance should have it, Mayor Fenty recently visited the DC Jail to promote the Central Detention Facility Employment Resource Center (CDFERC). CDFERC was created collaboratively by the Dept. of Corrections and the Dept. of Employment Services (DOES) to assist inmates who are 45 to 60 days from being released to re-enter society and to reduce recidivism. It is a One Stop employment center within the jail. CDFERC does career assessment, teaches life skills and gives inmates career information along with job counseling and guidance. They let inmates know what jobs are in high demand, teach computer skills and arrange apprenticeships. Inmates who complete the program have a job and an education awaiting them upon release. as a matter of fact, CDFERC even connects inmates to Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), the mayor's new housing initiative.

During his speech to the inmates, the mayor even took time to rehash his reasons for closing Franklin School Shelter and DC Village Family Shelter. He portrayed himself as someone who cares deeply for the homeless and doesn't want anyone to live in sub-standard conditions. Nonetheless, I won't address that issue in depth here and now. However, I would be remiss if I failed to point out that the mayor said he,"housed the men of Franklin" and didn't give any numbers. This may have led some to believe that he housed ALL of the former Franklin residents. He actually housed 86 out of the 300 plus men that Franklin School Shelter held on any given night. (The Dept. of Human Services has determined that approximately 1,000 men stayed at Franklin over a 3 month period.)

The center was opened on December 1st, 2008 and at least 21 inmates have completed the program thus far. Farbeit from me to criticize such a novel idea and awe-inspiring results. But the lingering questions are: "Why must a person go to jail in order to get the help that they so desperately need? Why can't we provide these same services in the homeless shelters?" This concern has been raised numerous times over the years to no avail. From Florida to DC I've heard people mention how that they'd have to commit a crime in order to get free job training and whatever else they need to get back on their feet. (Martin made that point rather comically in a video which begins with me speaking about job training and which is located to the right of this blog post.) It is as though government employees have a mental block that just won't allow them to comprehensively help the poor and homeless to recover and sustain themselves.

As it turns out, the Inter-agency Council on Homelessness (ICH) had its bi-monthly meeting on February 25th, 2009. During that meeting, homeless people mentioned that they didn't know about the various services that exist to help them. Neither did they know where to access those services. The point was also made that all shelters should be 24-hour shelters insomuch as it would enable those who find jobs to get their proper rest regardless of what hours they work. (12-hour shelters often don't accommodate those with 2nd and 3rd shift jobs.)

As if some form of divine intervention were at work revealing the flaws of the present system, I spoke to a case worker the following day and she told me that the Public Defender's office actually has the single most comprehensive list of services for helping the poor and homeless. (This only serves to enforce the idea that one must go to jail or prison in order to get the help they need.) She explained that the PDO has a 250-page website about services that is just chock full of helpful information. It is ironic, if not appalling, that every shelter and homeless service provider doesn't have such a website or resource book. Several people, myself included, have asked DC Government for years to have such a website and/or book at all shelters and service providers. On February 25th, as in times past, I told DC Government to develop a resource notebook like the one at Miriam's Kitchen. They've yet to do it, even though it wouldn't require much effort to download the info from the PDO website. They wouldn't even need caseworkers to help people find information in the resource book. Shelter residents could look up the broad array of services themselves.

All of this begs the question: "Does DC Government really want to help the homeless or are they just pimping the homeless???" Let's create One Stop employment centers within all homeless shelters. Let's make all shelters 24-hour shelters. Let's create resource books and/or websites to connect people to services that are in place to help them. Let's do what really WILL end homelessness.

CORRECTION: Contrary to something that I wrote in a previous post, the Coalition for the Homeless actually DOES answer directly to TCP and not to DC Government.

A Quick Aside: During the ICH meeting that I referred to in this blog post, I made the point that I might seem to be mean at times; but, I appreciate what people do to try to end homelessness. I emphasized that my meanness is for the purpose of "making people do their jobs". I'm one of several people who use such techniques. Well, my personal opinion is that the pressure techniques are working. I should hope that those who are helping to apply pressure to our local government would keep up the good work. We'll soon have a local government which comprehensively helps its poorest citizens.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

TCP Fails To Pay CCNV For Operating Homeless Shelter

Yesterday I posted a short, undetailed message about a certain DC homeless shelter that was abruptly closed (which I'll soon delete). I have since done my homework and found out what happened and why. So, here it is.....

The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness (TCP) has not paid CCNV (the Community for Creative Non-Violence) for its services for 2 months. CCNV took action so as to exact payment yesterday. Before I give any further explanation of yesterday's situation, I must first explain everyone's role.

The Government of the District of Columbia has a Dept. of Human Services (DHS). DHS has contracted out many of its homeless services to The Community Partnership (TCP) which in turn contracts out to the actual service providers such as CCNV and Catholic Charities. (Those homeless services that don't fall under the purview of TCP are administered by the Coalition for the Homeless, which answers to DHS.)

CCNV (the Community for Creative Non-Violence) is one of 3 homeless shelters in the former Federal City College. The others are the John L. Young Women's Shelter and the Open Door Women's Shelter. (CCNV has beds for men and women.) The building also houses DC Central Kitchen which feeds one meal per day to most of DC's 6,000 plus homeless and a Unity Healthcare office for DC's homeless. Every hypothermia season a temporary drop-in center is opened in the basement of CCNV for approximately 150 overnighters/walk-ins (all men) to stay warm. The majority of those at CCNV have reserved beds from night to night.

The building is actually owned by DC Government. It was wrested from the Reagan Administration and given to the city through the protests of many homeless people under the leadership of Mitch Snyder, with Mitch having gone on a 51-day hunger strike.

Well, the government is about to get the homeless community up in arms again, this time under my leadership. This latest move has indicated that the homeless are ready, willing and able to stand up and fight for their rights. That's not to speak of the fact that security is often increased at the John A. Wilson Building (City Hall) whenever the homeless and their advocates show up to speak up for their human rights. At one such event this past September, the security at the Wilson bldg. cited the actions of a certain woman from the group Mayday DC during a rally more than 5 years ago as their reason for increasing security when the homeless and their advocates showed up. She had gone out on the 5th floor ledge to unfurl a banner explaining the DC Government hates the homeless.(There is a lawsuit taking place due to people having been denied access to a government building.)

Finally, I can get to the jist of the story. TCP has failed to pay CCNV for running the drop-in center. They've not paid CCNV for its services for the months of January or February of this year. (Checks are due by the 15th of each month.) The unpaid staff had been holding meetings about this problem for several weeks. Finally, they decided to make a power move. So, on February 19th, the staff told all of the men in the drop-in center that they were quitting and that they, the shelter occupants, had to leave. The staff also called the media. They had to call the cops for the residents who failed to leave. Some residents also began to make calls, some to the media. DC Government's Dept. of Human Services was also called. They promised to take care of the matter. (Let's remember that it was TCP who failed to pay CCNV, not DC Government or DHS.) The shelter staff has promised that, if they don't get paid today, they'll do the same thing again, possibly longer. This could get really ugly.

I also want to point out that TCP's head is on the chopping block. Earlier on that same day I attended 2 hearings at the Wilson Bldg. In the latter one, I heard the director of DHS say that he was seriously considering getting rid of TCP. (They are in the last year of their contract.) He, Clarence Carter, has decided that many of the functions of TCP can and should be done by the employees of DHS. In these hard economic times, we must trim the fat off of government. He wants to get rid of the middle man, which in this case is operated by a woman -- Sue Marshall. He commended the agency's work, but maintained that he must save money. About an hour and a half after that hearing ended, I got word of the CCNV drop-in center fiasco. This serves as an additional reason to get rid of TCP. Things aren't looking up for TCP right now.

Other CCNV business.....

I did a video in December in which I described the caseworker role that I will take on. I've not done any casework per se. However, I AM working for CCNV in another capacity -- as a homeless advocate.

There are rumors circulating about the possible sale of the Federal City Shelter (the entire building). One such rumor claims that Georgetown U. has already bought the building. THE TRUTH: Georgetown U. has the first right of refusal on the building. This means that, if DC Government decides to sell the building, Georgetown U. would be the first to be given the option of buying it. I've yet to receive definitive word of any sale.

For those who plan to help the homeless, CCNV could use donations of cleaning supplies for the building -- bleach, amonia, rags, mops, mop heads, pesticides. We are not in dire straits yet. The building IS adequately clean for the moment. However, the afforementioned items are in short supply.


CCNV is a self-supporting entity. Apart from using a government-owned building, they don't get anything else from the government for the majority of their services. They don't get paid for caring for the 700 people with reserved beds. They DO get paid for providing shelter to the 150 men of the drop-in center, which is only open during hypothermia.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

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.....

THE MAYOR IS DECEIVING THE PUBLIC AND GAINING SUPPORT FOR HIS PLANS DUE TO PEOPLE'S LACK OF KNOWLEDGE ON THE ISSUE!!!!!

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.....

THE TRUTH IS OUT!!!!!

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

DC Mayor Adrian Fenty's Dirty Politics

A close friend saved the Metro section from February 4th edition of the Washington Post and gave it to me several days later. She had marked a certain article that she knew would be of interest to me. It was an article about DC Mayor Adrian Fenty entitled,"Heavy Hitters Contributing To Fenty's reelection Bid". It explained that Mayor Fenty has developed close friendships with many wealthy people -- developers and lawyers alike. It said what many of DC's poor and underprivileged already knew, having learned it the hard way -- that Fenty doesn't really care for the poor or working class people of DC.

In order to understand the full gravity of the situation, you must know what he did prior to becoming mayor. Just prior to becoming mayor, Adrian Fenty was the Ward 4 councilman. As the Ward 4 councilman, he was also the chairperson for the Committee on Human Services. (Most councilmembers, though they have their respective wards that they oversee, also have a citywide committee that they chair.) As such, he oversaw the homeless shelters, housing programs, employment and foodstamp programs and other agencies that help the poor. He made several trips to the DC Village Family Shelter to meet with the residents and address their complaints. He shook my hand and the hands of my comrades on multiple occasions as he promised to keep Franklin School open as a shelter if he became mayor. He seemed rather gung ho about helping the homeless and we thought that he really cared. With hindsight always being 20/20, we now know that he helped the homeless at that time because it was just his job. Nonetheless, he got many of his votes due to people's perception of him as someone who cared for the little people.

Adrian Fenty took office as mayor on January 2nd, 2007. His choice for director of the Dept. of Human Services, Clarence Carter, began his job on July 23rd, 2007. (That very day, my comrades and I were holding a rally in front of the John A. Wilson bldg -- DC's City Hall -- to protest the lack of A/C in several shelters.) According to Mr. Carter, during his interview the mayor asked him,"Can you close the DC Village Family Shelter within 3 months???" To that Mr. carter answered,"Yes, I can". He got the job and the shelter closure became the qualifying test. He passed. He became the Director of DC's Dept. of Human Services by closing a homeless shelter. Does anyone else see the irony in that???

On April Fool's Day, 2008 (no coincidence), Mayor Fenty announced his housing plan for DC's chronically homeless. The plan included the closure of Franklin School Shelter, which took place on September 26th. It also included the creation of at least 350 units of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) and a 150-bed, low-barrier shelter for men in the downtown area to replace the 300-bed Franklin School Shelter. The latter has yet to materialize and might not during Fenty's administration. Furthermore, the funding for the PSH program was slashed in November, due to the economic downturn. Insomuch as the Franklin closure was predicated, in part, on the success of the Permanent Supportive Housing program, this amounts to a bait and switch.

The 801 East men's Shelter on the grounds of St. Elizabeth's Hospital (where John Hinkley, Reagan's shooter is being held) is also slated for closure. No hard dates have been set that i know of. However, the Dept. of Homeland Security (the other DHS) is devising plans to build offices on the grounds of the sprawling St. Elizabeth's Hospital campus, thus displacing the homeless shelter. The Harriet Tubman Women's Shelter, on the grounds of the defunct DC General Hospital will soon fall victim to the planned Hill East development project. The city might have plans to create additional shelter elsewhere and/or a sufficient amount of supportive housing. Affordable housing for the low-income would be nice too. But the city has not been forthcoming with any such plan. (Hopefully this blog post will help to put them on the defensive and to make them more forthcoming.)

As a quick aside, I will say that I am still awaiting the final word on the CCNV Shelter. CCNV (the Community for Creative Non-Violence) is a 1,500-person homeless shelter near Capitol Hill that has been threatened with closure repeatedly. The latest threat came in the form of a contract dispute. I am not disclosing too many details right now, as i don't want to compromise the outcome of the contracting. There is still hope that the situation will improve.

This only BEGINS to explain the measures that Mayor Fenty has taken against the poor and homeless. It would take a book to write them all. It is important to note that there is a definite dichotomy within DC Government. There ARE those in DC government with a genuine concern for the most vulnerable and needy among us. Unfortunately, they don't seem to be getting their way right now.

That much having been said, one can now begin to see the complete about-face that adrian Fenty has done since taking office. The article which helped to inspire this blog post pointed out that, while most of Fenty's 2006 campaign contributions came from small, private donations, most of the $3.8 mil that he has raised toward his 2010 mayoral run has come from developers, law firms, millionaires and billionaires. That's not to speak of the fact that he has earned a name for being anti-union. (There was a Washington Post article to that effect.) He has also broken promises to the non-profit ONE DC to create affordable housing on Parcel 42 in Northwest DC. As a matter of fact, I can't keep up with all of his broken promises.

All of this makes it extremely ironic that Fenty would befriend the Obamas. He's eaten lunch with the Obamas and Bidens on several occasions. Mayor Fenty is an avid promise breaker. President Obama began his first full day of work making good on his campaign promises. Aside from their skin color and their positions as chief executives, I don't see any other commonalities between Fenty and Obama.

Finally, let's get the word out about Adrian Fenty. Maybe the Obamas and/or Bidens will read it or watch it on the news. Let's put it in the newspaper, on T.V., on the radio and in cyberspace. Let's show his true colors. I wonder what the Obamas would say if they knew the real Fenty.

Please google: DC Mayor Adrian Fenty. Read up on his dirty politics.

Also, I want to draw special attention the post just below this one. Please read it if you haven't already.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Where Are All The Homeless People?????

Something suspicious is happening to the homeless people of DC. There has been a sharp, sudden decline in the numbers of homeless people that frequent certain parks and other areas of town. The recent murders of homeless people in DC creates a definite cause for concern -- one man having had his head bashed in as he slept outdoors, the other having been beaten by 2 men as the result of a verbal altercation and left to die in front of a grocery store. (In the latter case, video footage shows people walking past the man as he lie incapacitated and dying for 20 minutes.) There have also been at least a half dozen non-fatal attacks on homeless DC residents as they slept outside over the past few months. Putting aside all sensationalism, I don't believe that the decreased number of homeless people in the parks is the result of foul play. If so, it's probably non-violent foul play on the part of Mayor Fenty and/or those acting on his behalf; but, don't quote me on that.

A certain group called Praise 'n Thunder feeds the homeless in McPherson Park every first Saturday. They also give out clothes and other things that the homeless need. Usually there are a couple hundred homeless there to eat their food and receive clothing. This past Saturday, there were only about 50. (Go to www.praisenthunder.org .)

The Church of the Epiphany holds street Church in Franklin Park every Tuesday. Normally there are about 50 homeless people in attendance. This past Tuesday there were less than 20. (Go to www.epiphanydc.org .)

YSOP (Youth Service Opportunities Project) often serves dinner to the homeless at the Church of the Epiphany. They allow up to 40 homeless guests. It's been hard getting 20 to show up lately. (Go to www.ysop.org .)

The homeless who used to sleep on the heating grates on Pennsylvania Ave. are disappearing too. It is suspected that they are being told to leave by one or more of the more than 3 dozen police agencies in DC, though it is not illegal for them to be there.

Many of the homeless were told that they had to move outside of the security perimeter during the inauguration. However, the inauguration took place more than 3 weeks ago.

Another explanation is that many are being housed through the Permanent Supportive Housing Program. If so, that's great. However, I seriously doubt that they are being housed quickly enough to explain the abscences of ALL of the homeless, especially since the housing budget was slashed due to the economic downturn.

I've also learned that DC Government's Dept. of Mental Health will give people one-way tickets out of town free of charge to wherever they want to go within the contiguous U.S. They don't ask many questions and, unlike Travelers' Aid, they don't require the person to have a contact at their destination who can verify that they will be taken care of or have a place to live. It sounds to me like DMH considers these people to be burdens and is glad to rid the city of its mentally ill, many of whom are homeless. While it is not mandatory that the mentally ill accept this offer, I can imagine that many of the mentally ill homeless are being strongly encouraged to accept this offer -- even being given incentives to leave town.

Finally, we all know that DC Mayor Adrian Fenty has become friends with the Obamas and the Bidens, often eating lunch with them. There is much suspicion that Mayor Fenty is trying to make DC "safer" and/or "more attractive" for the Obamas, in part by removing as many homeless people as possible. This is a good lead to follow. Let's find out what is happening to DC's homeless. Where are all the homeless people?????

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

A QUICK UPDATE: Franklin Court Case and Another POSSIBLE Shelter Closure (CCNV)

The court case is still on-going. After the hearing on January 30th, we returned for a motion for summary judgment on February 3rd. The judge gave us until February 17th to file any addition paperwork with the court before she makes a decision.We are presently gathering information pertaining to property that people were not allowed to retrieve when Franklin School shelter was closed as well as services that they no longer get now that Franklin is closed. The good news is that the case is still in court and we still have a chance to win and possibly collect damages.

I have received highly credible information that the mayor might be trying to shut down the Federal City Shelter at 2nd and D streets, NW in DC. It is also known as CCNV (the Community for Creative Non-Violence). The building houses 1,500 homeless people. It was made into a homeless shelter due to the activism of Mitch Snyder and many others. (You can google "CCNV" and read all about it on-line.) Mayor Adrian Fenty has developed a pattern of closing homeless shelters without creating adequate replacements or sufficient housing. He is catering to the rich developers, to the detriment of the poor and homeless. He must be stopped dead in his tracks. Stay tuned for further updates. I will know for certain on or after February 9th whether or not Mayor Fenty is in the process of closing another homeless shelter.

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