My Appointment to DC Inter-agency Council on Homelessness

No one who knows me can imagine me feeling a need to be validated by the system. After all, I began advocating in June 2006 -- less than two weeks before the first ever DC ICH meeting. I've been involved with this body for the entirety of its existence thus far, missing very few of the big meetings which used to be bi-monthly but are now quarterly.

However, Kristy Greenwalt became its first director on April 28th, 2014 and is implementing a number of changes -- some for the purpose of bringing the ICH into compliance with new federal regulations. In February 2015 other advocates and I were informed of ICH positions that were being created or becoming open. I made it a point to apply -- which has proven to be a lengthy process. Fast-forward nine months to November 4th, 2015. On this day there was a nomination hearing in front of Council Chairman Phil Mendelson. I was one of 12 applicants who testified. While I'm not sure how many seats were open, I know that only three of the 12 people were either homeless or formerly homeless with the regulations calling for three to five members to be from that category. Someone with inside information called me about two hours after my testimony to tell me that I've been confirmed. I still await the official word, though I'm sure my friend is right. That said, here is the testimony I read which can also be accessed on the DC Council website:

Eric Sheptock's ICH Nomination Testimony

Chairman Mendelson and the DC Council:

As you well know, I am Eric Jonathan Sheptock whom several of you honored on November 18th, 2014 as you declared December 31st, 2014 to be Eric Jonathan Sheptock Day in the District of Columbia. It was due to my work from June 2006 to the present fighting for the city's homeless community. Even with several council members having taken office this past January and the late Marion Barry's seat having been filled since then, I know that all but one or two members have met me. It stands to reason that a body which has so honored me (giving me the day by which the 2004 plan would have ended homelessness if it had worked) would appoint me to the DC Inter-agency Council on Homelessness as a community representative.

With my nine-plus years of advocacy being well-documented on the internet and accessible through a simple Google search, I need not belabor the topic of my experience. Even so, I will indeed point out that I attended the first ever ICH meeting under the auspices of then-city administrator Robert Bobb as it was held on the 11th floor of 441 4th street NW – the Judiciary Square Building – in June 2006. I went to several of the ICH inaugural hearings which were held in several locations that are easily accessed by the poor and homeless of the city. As a matter of fact, I still have a lengthy e-mail document that spells out what people said at those hearings. That document and the annual point-in-time count give me multiple points of reference that I can use to determine how well we are doing at ending homelessness or even improving the conditions that people must endure while homeless.

Some might say that my critiques are, at times, as poignant as those given by the late, great Mitch Snyder. But anyone who knows me knows that I am a solution-oriented person. It has been a personal rule of mine for over 25 years that I don't open my mouth to complain unless I have a possible solution (there being an obvious exception when I lack the necessary expertise). That said, I was quite bothered when I heard talk of a second multiple-year plan without anyone having looked at why “Homelessness No More” has turned into “Homes No More” since its 2004 passage. I was also quite bothered by the fact that, with the ICH normally discussing the increase of decrease in homeless people at the meeting which follows the publishing of the count results, there was no discussion of the 13%, one-year increase to 7,748 people at the June 2014 ICH meeting. I dug and got an answer as to why – another pertinent skill of mine.

It should be noted that I am currently building the conversation around the future of the Federal City Shelter also known as CCNV, though I'm not the only one. I was a significant player in bringing forth the June 27th, 2013 Human Services hearing during which Councilman Graham decided to create the CCNV Task Force which has led to the creation of legislation that allows Mayor Bowser to create and move on a plan that hopefully will improve the lives of the shelter residents. I filed a FOIA request with the feds in January 2013, sent the info to Mr. Graham, pressed him every couple of weeks about the promised hearing and worked with my advocacy colleagues to get the homeless and concerned citizens involved. I plan to continue this particular effort; therefore, it behooves the DC Council to appoint me to the ICH. After all, me being on the ICH causes me to have to “play nicely in the sandbox”.

Whether I'm poignant or polite, my dedication to ending homelessness is clearly unwavering. However, my vision and goals are not defined by what we are ending so much as what we are beginning and creating. With so many of the advocates fighting for the disabled and for families, I have made my primary focus the able-bodied homeless adults – a topic I am speaking on extensively with a French citizen who is currently working on her doctoral thesis. That said, I envision a world in which any full-time worker can afford all of life's necessities without government assistance – with those who can't work being provided for. This vision includes but is not limited to affordable-on-the-open-market housing and requires that all jobs pay a living wage. Let's work together toward these and similar goals.

Thanks.

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