Thursday, June 9, 2016

DC's Mayor Bowser Has A Feasible Plan to End Homelessness – Maybe.

I would like to congratulate all homeless advocates, non-profits, council members and administration officials who had anything to do with the city committing at least $22.16M to housing at least 2,431 homeless DC residents in Fiscal Year 2017. If the calculations that I list below are correct AND if we were to maintain the same level of funding through the end of Fiscal Year 2020 (adjusting the baseline budget for inflation), then the city could conceivably house 9,724 homeless people in the next four fiscal years (FY 17 thru 20). That's 1,374 more than the 8,350 homeless people that DC had as of January 2016. THAT'S PROGRESS!!!!!

I calculated that as many as 1,122 of the 2,431 people that the city could house in FY 17 are able-bodied adults. Most or all of these adults would need to use the services of the Dept. Of Employment Services' Project Empowerment program. However, Project Empowerment served 585 people in FY 15 and not all of them were homeless. This represents A CAPACITY PROBLEM.

DC Government has several reasons to want to bring the housing efforts of DHS together with the employment efforts of DOES, not the least of which is the federal legislation known as the Workforce Innovations and Opportunities Act or WIOA. This legislation requires municipalities to do better at connecting hard-to-employ people to jobs. This group includes the homeless.

Another reason for DC Government to want to adjoin these efforts is that doing so would increase the likelihood of the able-bodied people whom the city houses in 2017 will remain housed for a long time thereafter. Let's not forget that connecting capable people to housing-wage jobs which they maintain for many years thereafter is just “the right thing to do”.

Other reasons include the fact that several administrations since 2004 have worked on ending homelessness. Additionally, the most recent 5-year plan to end homelessness (adopted in 2015) states that in DC a housing wage is $28.25 per hour for the average-priced rental – c. $1,500/month. (I would add that this figure is for a full-time worker who is not supporting a spouse or children.) What's more is that the city now has a deputy mayor of greater economic opportunity and she is working hard to connect poor people to living-wage ($13.85 per hour) or housing wage jobs – which I'm not entirely sure. I don't think anyone in or connected to the social service arena wants DC Government to fail in this capacity. I sure don't.

When I get the updated figures concerning the percentage of Project Empowerment program participants are homeless, then I'll be able to give a figure at to the total number of clients that the program would need to have a capacity to serve annually in order for DOES to fulfill its role of connecting recently-housed A-bods to living/housing-wage jobs. If we assume that two-thirds of PE clients are homeless, then PE would need to have a capacity to serve at least 1,683 people per year in order to keep up with the rate at which A-bods are connected to housing.

Housing for those who make a “living wage” but not a “housing wage”:
which implies that they're living somewhere other than in housing...
which means they're homeless while employed...

It is not realistic to think that the majority of the 1,122 able-bodied homeless adults who might get connected to employment in FY 17 are going to make at least $28.25 per hour or afford a $1,500 rental. It has been brought to my attention that there are single room occupancies and 400 sq. ft. units that can go for $650 per month which is one-third of $1,950. A person working 160 hours per month at $12.50 per hour makes $2,000 gross monthly pay. This might be a more REALISTIC EMPLOYMENT/HOUSING GOAL.

Short-Term Asks and Considerations:

With 1,122 of the 1,547 or 72.53% of the homeless adults who will be housed in 2017 being able-bodied, this is indicative of a systemic shift toward splitting our attention and housing resources between the most vulnerable and least vulnerable homeless as opposed to focusing only on the former group – the able-bodied parents of course having vulnerable children. Now that the administration is beginning to do things that I support and have (along with others) called for over the past 10 years, I am committing myself wholeheartedly to doing all that I can to help and to push things to the next level.

It is with that idea in mind that I offer this write-up in its entirety and the simplified asks in this section as a template for our efforts over the next year ending on June 9th, 2017. Since the FY 17 budget for housing the homeless looks positive but the city's ability to make able-bodied homeless people self-sufficient seems to be insufficient, this combination of truths plays right into the focus of myself and some of my associates who are currently emphasizing living-wage jobs and affordable housing for able-bodied homeless people. Our short-term goals should be as follows:

1 – PROGRAM CAPACITY: Beginning now (June 9th, 2016), look at the capacity that DC Gov's Dept. Of Employment Services (DOES) has through the Project Empowerment Program and other programs to connect homeless people to jobs that will enable them to remain housed (without further government assistance thereafter). Consider the prospects for increasing the capacity of all such programs so that they can absorb homeless A-bods as they are housed (while continuing to assist people who are not known to have experienced homelessness). I'm guessing that at least 1,683 people would need to be served through project Empowerment annually in order to meet our goals; but, am prepared to have my figures disputed.

Maybe item #1 could be a topic at the June 21st meeting at DOES (for which participation is limited to those who received invites to the May 18th meeting).

2 – Also beginning now, DOES could work with DHS to develop a more intentional and well thought out “housing first” initiative that focuses on housing A-bods and then guarantees that DOES will connect them to living-wage jobs within a reasonable time frame. This differs from Rapid Re-housing insomuch as the client doesn't have to prove that they have the ability to become self-sufficient within 18 months,as is the case with RRH. It instead puts the onus on DOES to adjust the department's programs so as to guarantee that DOES has the ability to adequately help the homeless A-bods.

3 – Implement any changes that can be implemented in the remaining months of FY 16 – expansions and improvements of program models. Document the successes and failures of these programs. Determine what additional resources and permissions are needed from the DC Council and the mayor, respectively.

4 – Ask the mayor for such permissions ASAP and prepare any necessary pertinent budget requests and adjustments beginning now and going into the 2017 budget season for the FY 18 budget.

*The items listed above are just ideas that are meant to get the conversation moving. Quickly.*

Below are explanations as to how I arrived at the above figures and of the facts that I gathered from other sources in order to do my math.


I was happy to see what was printed on the quarter sheet that we received at the June 7th ICH “Singles CAHP” (Coordinated Assessment and Housing Placement) committee meeting. It said:

"Highlights from FY 17 Budget:

$6.8M for Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) to serve 425 individuals

$1.7M for Targeted Affordable housing (TAH) to serve 141 individuals

$3.9M to help just over 200 families through TAH

Maintains last year's funding for Rapid Rehousing to serve 350 individuals and 284 families."
[End of quote]

I, Eric Sheptock, juxtaposed figures from the aforementioned quarter sheet with numbers from the 2016 Point-in-Time Homeless Enumeration Fact Sheet (not to be confused with the regional figures) and did some additional math using the latter document so as to figure out that:

4,667 members of homeless families minus 2,722 children equals 1,945 adults, the latter comprising about 41.68% of the total homeless family make-up.

4,667 family members divided by 1,491 families comes out to about 3.13 people per family.

Budget Math:

$6.8M divided by 425 people is $16,000 per (disabled) person.

$1.7M divided by 141 people is $12,056.74 per person.

$3.9M divided by 200+ families is less than $19,500 per family (less than $6,500 per person).

[$12,056.74 times 350 individuals is about $4.22M
$19,500 times 284 families is about $5.54M
Maintained funding” was about $9.76M.]

If so, the total is about $22.16M.

Number of People Served:

As per the homeless point-in-time count, there are about 3.13 people per family, up from 3.07 last year. That means that 200 families translates to 626 people and 284 families translates to 889 people for a total of 1,515 people in families that will be served by the FY 17 budget.

With 41.68% of homeless family members being adults of which a negligible percentage are disabled, that means 631 of the 1,515 family members are able-bodied adults.

There are 916 single adults who will be served by this pot of money (425 plus 141 plus 350) of which 425 are disabled and 491 are able-bodied.

The total number of people housed by the FY 17 budget is 2,431 of which about 425 are disabled. That means that 631 A-bod parents plus 491 A-bod individuals give us 1,122 people who will need some assistance finding housing-wage jobs in 2017.

(Project Empowerment served 585 people last year.)

DOES needs to more than double its capacity to assist 1,100+ homeless people in one year through Project Empowerment, if they are going to be part of the mayor's 5-year plan to end homelessness. (Not all of the 585 were homeless.) I'm assuming that the city will try to connect all of the A-bods it houses in 2017 to jobs in that same year. It kind of makes sense. This goes to what we often say at meetings about "connecting all of the dots”. If DHS is going to house 1,100+ A-bod homeless people in one year, then DOES needs to assist at least that many homeless people at getting jobs as they exit homelessness each year -- at least that many (not counting the housed/never homeless people they help). How they do it is another conversation. We have a minimum goal to shoot for.

..MAYBE:

The title says that “DC has a feasible plan to end homelessness.....maybe”. As the late,great fighter Muhammad Ali said, “Every fighter has a plan.....until he gets hit”. In lieu of the fact that DC has been trying for 12 years to end homelessness, it would be extremely ignorant of me not to consider what might go wrong. The grim possibilities include but are not limited to the following:

1 – There could be a massive influx of homeless people into Washington, DC between December 2016 and June 2017. There might also be tenuously-housed people from other states who come here during that time frame and get stuck. 2017 is an inauguration year and we are poised to have our first ever female president and openly-Socialist vice president.

There are homeless people who come to DC in connection to every inauguration as per a recently-retired outreach worker. I had an interesting interaction with one such person in 2009 and witnessed her getting surrounded by Secret Service agents after she told them who she was. I never heard from or saw her again. Unless Travelers' Aid comes to the rescue, this influx could drive up the number of homeless people. That's not to speak of locals who have and will become homeless following the January 2016 homeless count.

That said, I expect a higher-than-usual influx of homeless people for the upcoming inauguration – some coming to congratulate Ms. Clinton and others coming to tell her how that they believe a woman shouldn't be president. (I personally promote equality, so long as we don't lower the bar for women. As Ms. USA 2016 said, “Women are as tough as men”.)

2 – We're counting on the DC Council to maintain at least the FY 17 baseline budget with adjustments for inflation factored in all the way through FY 20. This is not guaranteed.

3 – We're counting on DOES' programs to keep pace with the number of homeless A-bods who get housed. WIOA almost guarantees that they'll succeed in this respect. However, it is a tall order and there are a lot of moving parts to keep up with.

4 – There are a lot of variables which include the number of people who can be expected to enter homelessness between now and the end of 2020 as well as the number of homeless people who can be expected to complete any employment program.

That said, keep hope alive.

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