Eric Jonathan Sheptock Day & DC Mayor Muriel Bowser

On November 18th, 2014 the DC Council presented me with a resolution declaring December 31st, 2014 to be Eric Jonathan Sheptock Day in the District of Columbia. During the presentation, people were all smiles as we exchanged pleasantries. However, I used the occasion to address some serious business too by letting mayor-elect Muriel Bowser know that I'd like to work with her to address homelessness -- through the creation of affordable housing and living-wage jobs for the homeless. I also made it clear that we have at least time-and-a-half as many homeless people as we had when city officials "committed" themselves to decreasing homelessness and that we, therefore, have our work cut out for us.

I'm not sure what drove the DC Council to pick December 31st as Eric Jonathan Sheptock Day but that date is significant in several ways. It is 46 days before my 46th birthday which falls on 2/15 of 2(0)15. So there is a little numerical symmetry going on there. But more importantly, it is the date by which DC Government's 10-year plan to end homelessness was supposed to have ended homelessness in the city. In June of 2006 the DC Inter-agency Council on Homelessness (ICH) held its first meeting. Five months prior we counted 6,157 homeless people. (I couldn't find info electronically for how many homeless people there were in DC in 2004.) The 10-year plan was scrapped in 2007 due to three years of not meeting benchmarks. (More recently the New Communities affordable housing group gave up on its mission. There's a lot of giving up on the poor going on in DC these days.) We're sure to count nearly 9,000 homeless people in January. The numbers won't be published until May. That said, December 31st, 2014 is symbolic of DC Government's failures toward the poor.

I seek to change that. So, let me say here as I said during the presentation that I DO work with others. I'm not alone in my efforts. However, without sufficient political will to decrease homelessness and poverty in DC, we advocates are just shouting our demands for naught. That's why I've already begun to make inroads into the Bowser administration by publicly declaring my desire to work with her. Hopefully she'll be willing to recognize and learn from the city's failed efforts to decrease homeless and poverty and she'll then invest all of the necessary resources in a successful effort.

In one sense, such a commitment would make it easy for her to develop her legacy early on; as, the effort to end homelessness has tentacles that would take her into areas like affordable housing,living-wage jobs, domestic violence, medical bankruptcy, mental illness, inadequate education, lack of job training, adolescent homosexuality, the shortcomings of foster care and other areas. She could start with a willingness to end homelessness and end up with a plan for the city as a whole.

in another sense, such a commitment would make her job extremely difficult. She'd have to bump heads with the free-market economy in order to demand that homeless people receive living wages and affordable housing -- forcing employers to pay more and landlords to charge less. Ms. Bowser would also need to combat employer discrimination against the homeless. These and other efforts related to decreasing and ending homelessness and poverty would put her at odds with many capitalists.

That said, I'm working on getting a meeting with her. Despite my having noticed patterns in local governance that make me skeptical that we'll ever get adequate supports for the poor of DC (many of whom work and contribute to the life of the city), I'm willing to lay aside any presuppositions and to give Ms. Bowser a chance based on her own merits -- to see her as the "woman apart" which she claims to be. I hope to have the meeting arranged by the end of next week. Let's see what happens.


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