Saturday, July 19, 2014

“The Future” of the 1,350-Bed CCNV Shelter – End of the Task Force 10/8/13 to 7/8/14


CCNV: Past, Present and Future (a website that was put together by my colleagues and I)

Well, the CCNV (Community for Creative Non-Violence) Shelter Task Force has completed its mission. It was convened on October 8th, 2013 to compile data and come up with recommendations for the mayor and city council concerning the future of the shelter; and, it held its final meeting on July 8th, 2014. The task force came up with a list of 17 principles that should be adhered to as we consider the future of the property and the one-sixth of DC's homeless people which it holds. On July 14th, 2014 the DC Council held its final hearing before a two-month recess and presented a bill which contains those 17 principles and requires the mayor to develop a comprehensive plan for CCNV. (That bill is pasted at the end of this post.)

But the work on this issue began long before October of 2013. I was told several times by the shelter director beginning in mid-2011 that the building could be closed in 2018. His worry was fueled by the story of a homeless woman who died on a bench in front of the shelter in June 2009. (See her on that bench in THIS VIDEO at 8 min 18 secs, just 3 days before she died.) DC Government responded by saying that if she hadn't been loitering there, she wouldn't have died there and that CCNV would lose its contract if they didn't put an end to the loitering. To add insult to death, CCNV began having its security personnel patrol the 2,000-ft perimeter city block on June 17th, 2009 – the same day this woman was buried.

I've also heard shelter staff and residents talking about the possible 2018 closure since mid-2011, leading me to believe that it was the primary topic of at least one staff meeting. So, in January 2013 I filed a FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) request with the federal government. I initially contacted GSA (General Services Administration). They referred me to HHS (Health and Human Services, the ones who screwed up the Obamacare website) which sent me almost 100 pages of information about the property and property rights. These documents indicated that the 30-year covenant began in July 1986 (before the renovation was complete), not 1988 and that we had two years less than we thought before the covenant expired. I sent that information to city officials. Councilman Jim Graham convened a hearing on June 27th, 2013. At the hearing he decided to convene a task force. On July 10th, 2013 the council voted to approve the task force's formation and the rest is history. I just want to ensure that the history is properly recorded with the role of myself and other homeless people being properly documented.

I'm pleased, for the most part, with the outcome of the task force's work. I can't logically complain about what wasn't accomplished, as I fully understand why we couldn't do more. But knowing this doesn't decrease the dismay. It was rather ingenious of Councilman Jim Graham to bring together existing federal legislation and local legislation that pertains to homeless services as well as the recommendations of the task force in the bill (below). If the bill is passed in its present form, it will mandate that the present and incoming (2015) mayors adequately address a matter that should have been addressed beginning over 25 years ago when the property was transferred from the feds to DC Government. I'm a bit dismayed that a task force of about 20 people could only come up with these 17 principles in nine months. I wish we could have developed some semblance of a plan; but, there were too many strong wills, technicalities and idiosyncrasies at work. That said, I've pasted my July 8th testimony below with a couple of added statements in [brackets]. The bill is below my testimony:

Testimony for July 8th, 2014 Hearing on CCNV Building Plans

I've advocated for DC's homeless community since mid-June 2006. While I've heard rumblings of a possible closure of the CCNV/Federal City Shelter since mid-2011 and met with Chapman Todd, a consultant for Downtown BID, in October and November 2012, I was one of the key people responsible for beginning the public conversation around the future of the 1,350-person shelter in January 2013. Prior to 2013, an overhaul of the property was an idea that was just tossed around informally. Now the public conversation is in full swing. I therefore have a vested interest in making sure the process goes well for all who will be affected by the mayor's decision. I am doing all that I can to fully and properly inform his decision. [To my dismay, the involvement of the homeless community in getting this process started has been grossly under-represented by certain media outlets.]

It is worth noting that, while efforts were made to involve the directly-affected homeless people in this process, our efforts have proven to be onerous. The homeless are a gravely disenfranchised lot of people. I'm guessing that, as this issue hits the headlines in a really big way, the homeless will realize the gravity of the situation and decide to come forth and speak on their own behalf. In lieu of this matter, I strongly suggest that another hearing or roundtable be scheduled in the early fall.

Due to a number of factors, the building's census fluctuates between 1,100 and 1,350 people with a recent document putting the maximum capacity at only 1,260 beds. Chapman told me in 2012 that any talk of closing the facility without creating a total of 1,350 beds elsewhere would be a conversation stopper. On March 24th, 2014 Richard Bradley of Downtown BID said that Chapman was speaking in lieu of the political realities of the fall of 2012 with those realities having changed. This was during a meeting in which Rich presented a document that placed the building's census at 909. He admitted to error. Nonetheless it highlights the need to ensure that we properly and fully inform the mayor's decision.

As the city begins to pay for services rendered to the 950 people that CCNV-Proper presently shelters at no operating cost to the city, the cost of helping these homeless residents will increase. The city has saved millions of dollars per year for 28 years (well over $100 million total, maybe 4 times that). It would easily cost the city at least $135 million to create affordable housing units for all CCNV/FCS residents with the mayor having promised almost 8 times as many units by 2020.

Some associates of mine have also said that we shouldn't speak of the sale and demolition of the present structure as a foregone conclusion – that we should consider the possibility of renovating the building and allowing its entities to continue to do business as usual. They've also suggested that we seek financing tools that will enable service providers to retain and redevelop the parking lot AND the present building for shelter and/or affordable housing. I concur with the latter statement.

It should be noted that, since 1986, DC Government has done very little to grow the residents of CCNV/FCS beyond homelessness. Even when Fenty insisted on closing the 300-bed Franklin School Shelter due to it being “unfit for human habitation” and not wanting to “warehouse homeless people”, there was no talk of housing or helping able-bodied people from this 1,350-person shelter. DHS has had oversight of this property for over 8 years; yet it remains a hole in the wall.

In closing, I'll say that any conversation about assisting the homeless should include at least two elements – a segment about how to house them [as opposed to simply sheltering them and defending their right to sleep on the streets] as well as an effort to involve the homeless in advocating for themselves.

See a copy of the bill below:

_________________________ _________________________
Councilmember Marion Barry Councilmember Jim Graham



________________________
Councilmember Anita Bonds



A BILL

____________

IN THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

__________________________


To amend the Homeless Services Reform Act of 2005 to require the Mayor to develop a plan that provides a range of comprehensive services that address the assessed needs of homeless individuals at 425 2nd Street, N.W., and that complies with the Statement of Principles as developed by the Center for Creative Non-Violence (“CCNV”) Task Force.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, That this
act may be cited as the “Plan for Comprehensive Services for Homeless Individuals at 425 2nd Street, N.W., Amendment Act of 2014”.
Sec. 2. The Homeless Services Reform Act of 2005, effective October 22, 2005 (D.C. Law 16-35; D.C. Official Code § 4-751.01 et seq.), is amended by adding new sections 27g and 27h to read as follows:
“Sec. 27g. Plan for comprehensive services for homeless individuals at 425 2nd Street, N.W.”
“In the provision of homeless services for individuals residing at the property located at 425 2nd Street, N.W., the Mayor shall develop a plan that complies with the Statement of Principles, outlined in section 27h and developed by the CCNV Task Force (“Task Force”) pursuant to the CCNV Task Force Emergency Act of 2013, effective August 2, 2013 (D.C. Act 20-147; 60 DCR 11809; 20 DCSTAT 2000), and the CCNV Task Force Temporary Act of 2013, effective December 5, 2013 (D.C. Law 20-45; 60 DCR 14959; 20 DCSTAT 2392).
“Sec. 27h. The Statement of Principles of the Task Force shall be as follows:
“(1) The District of Columbia has an obligation to provide for the needs of homeless District of Columbia residents in the development of its parcel at 425 2nd Street, N.W. This obligation went into effect when the property was first transferred from the federal government to the District of Columbia.
“(2) Any new development of the parcel should be “build first,” that is, the existing shelter should not be razed until replacement capacity is fully available.
“(3) Replacement capacity should be located at the current site to respond effectively to the needs of residents, to the maximum extent possible,.
“(4) Any replacement capacity located off-site should be close to public transportation, and for ease of access to jobs and services, ideally located in the downtown area of the District of Columbia.
“(5) Replacement capacity should primarily be deeply affordable housing, and include single room occupancy (“SRO”), efficiency, studio design, the Housing First model of permanent supportive housing with housing specifically targeting the needs of youth under the age of 25, and 24-hour low barrier shelter and hypothermia shelter. Some scattered site capacity through vouchers or otherwise, might be appropriate or desirable for some residents.
“(6) Any SRO, efficiency, or studio design unit should have sufficient square footage to meet current recommended standards for living space.
“(7) Private bathing and cooking space should be prioritized to the maximum extent possible.
“(8) Any site re-design should be responsive to security needs of residents, both within the building and in the surrounding environments.
“(9) Any new development should follow sustainable and green principles.
“(10) In any new construction, developers should follow “First Source” requirements. All efforts should be made to employ as many residents of 425 2nd Street, N.W., as possible.
“(11) Priority for new units should be given to current residents, people with disabilities, and people who are elderly.
“(12) All efforts should be taken in the redevelopment design to allow families, including families with no minor children, to be housed or sheltered together, regardless of gender.
“(13) It is important to have services available on-site.
“(14) Assessment of service needs, for example, whether a resident needs permanent supportive housing, should be made using the “state of the art” tools and standards available at the time of assessment.
“(15) There should be office space for management of programs included in the site re-design.
“(16) All non-shelter services presently at 425 2nd Street N.W., should be included in the site re-design to the maximum extent feasible.
“(17) All providers and relevant programs should meet the highest standards and have appropriate qualifications for the service provided.”.
Sec. 3. Fiscal impact statement.
The Council adopts the fiscal impact statement in the committee report as the
fiscal impact statement required by section 602(c)(3) of the District of Columbia Home Rule
Act, approved December 24, 1973 (87 Stat. 813; D.C. Official Code § 1-206.02(c)(3)).
Sec. 4. Effective date.
This act shall take effect following approval by the Mayor (or in the event of veto by the Mayor, action by the Council to override the veto), a 30-day period of Congressional review as provided in section 602(c)(1) of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, approved December
24, 1973 (87 Stat. 813; D.C. Official Code § 1-206.02(c)(1)), and publication in the District of Columbia Register.

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