Use Media to Force a Gentrifying Mayor to End Homelessness & Housing Insecurity -- Mayor Muriel Bowser
Announcement: Street Sense -- DC's newspaper about homelessness and poverty -- will hold a meeting with journalists to discuss how media covers homelessness. See the unadulterated announcement below:
PLEASE HELP EDUCATE D.C. JOURNALISTS ON WHAT IMPORTANT STORIES NEED TO BE TOLD ABOUT HOMELESSNESS
Community Meeting for Reporters & People Experiencing Homelessness Tuesday, May 23 | 4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. Church of the Epiphany sanctuary (1317 G Street NW, Metro Center)
This meeting is a precursor to a June 29th event that is intended to identify solutions to homelessness.
DC's current and future mayors Muriel Bowser and Karl Racine received the following. Maybe he'll learn from her mistakes and do better...starting now.
Below are six ideas as to how DC homeless advocates might politicize homelessness and force the mayor to come up with real solutions. If we play our cards right, then Ms. Bowser's anticipated loss in the June 2018 primary will point unquestionably to her failure to adequately execute plans for her pet project and will cause the next mayor to realize that he MUST adequately address homelessness and poverty lest he too become a one-term mayor like Adrian Fenty (2007-2011, whose protege Muriel Bowser is), Vince Gray (2011-2015) and Muriel Bowser (2015-2019...only). After all, what good is a politician who fails at their pet project??? These ideas are built on improved reporting on homelessness by the media:
How media should cover homelessness
1 -- Coverage should acknowledge the irrefutably unacceptable backdrop against which various public figures speak of homelessness -- the overtones and undertones of statements made by politicians, government officials and other reporters. These tones include but are not limited to racism, classism and stereotypes about poor people and Blacks. Welfare didn't get a bad name until large numbers of Blacks got on it in the 60's. That truth screams of racism. It is less damaging but still relevant that the media can make it seem as though most poor Americans are Black. In reality, there are more poor whites in the U.S., though a higher percentage of Blacks than Whites experience poverty.
2 -- Coverage should offer a critique of government's efforts -- which requires juxtaposing different articles that reference a government's "efforts" to end homelessness and points out when that government is either incapable of or unwilling to adequately address homelessness (like I said in my collaborative 12/17/14 Street Sense article). In the 80's the critique was that the feds weren't doing anything about homelessness. More recently there have been critiques of local governments' failed efforts to address homelessness. Currently, even that seems to have diminished. One quick example is how DC Government claimed it couldn't find developers for the $15.8M federal HOME grant that DC just gave back unused -- a claim by government that should be juxtaposed with info about DC Gov's constant dealings with developers (some of whom sit on the ICH). Call BS on them (not bachelor of science either).
3 -- Coverage should address how government's approach to homelessness is guided by capitalism, how the conditions that homeless people and service providers operate under are affected by capitalism and how public attitudes like NIMBY play a role -- everything from the profit motive that pushes rents up, to the argument that a shelter in the neighborhood decreases property values (which SS has covered) to the strong possibility that developers decided to forgo the HOME grant program and other programs due to not wanting to be part of creating affordable housing and preferring instead to build places that rent for $2,000 per month.
4 -- Coverage should offer a plan and/or a set of ideas that the general public can understand and offer explanations of how making a bad choice (such as NIMBY) can have unintended consequences that adversely affect the very members of the public that promoted the bad idea. One example is how there were businesses who (through Downtown BID) pushed for the closure of the Franklin School Shelter (which admittedly wasn't altogether perfect). That closure occurred on 9/26/08. There was an Examiner article in September 09 that made the connection between the 08 closure and the higher visibility of homeless people a year later. (It is buried in the graveyard of hard-to-find PDF's but I found the article again recently and can send it if you'd like.)
5 -- Coverage should not be apolitical or engineered to suppress highly relevant truths that ought to be included in the story. Some time ago, a profile was done of me by a major media outlet. A couple of lady friends called me to express their displeasure with it; because, it didn't explain my political activities. I called the writer who told me that he turned in a 94" article which was sliced down to 47" by the editor. He explained that the editor felt that, if the story sounded too political, it would be a turn-off. The editor, therefore, removed a full half of the story and made it into a "feel-good story". The writer did a good job after shadowing me for 5 days. The editor made the truth into a hack job. I got 6 media interviews and 600+ FB friend requests within 24 hours after that article came out. My new FB friends on other continents sent me the article in their language: Spanish, Italian, Korean etc. I see why some folk believe that all publicity is good publicity, though I'm not sure I'd take it that far.
Pressuring the next mayor to do better
6 -- The media can force positive change through initiatives such as a themed coverage of a politician such that it forces that politician to put up or shut up. Pointing out the missteps of a mayor who claims to be interested in addressing homelessness but is failing colossally can make homelessness a politically-relevant issue that does much to decide the next mayoral election (though homelessness is not generally a political issue). The matter can then be broadened out into the category of how DC deals with poverty as a whole.
A -- I was happy when it seemed that Mayor Muriel Bowser had made addressing homelessness her pet project. After a number of missteps by her, I am on the war path and have begun a campaign to tell the public the truth about her doings such that it pressures the mayor into doing better over the next year and such that her loss in the June 2018 primary creates a clear and unmistakable mandate for the next mayor (CC'ed) to develop a plan that actually ends homelessness.
B1 -- The primary was going to be in September 2018 -- four months after the homeless count numbers are released and reflect a dramatic increase in homeless people which is currently being fueled by impending HUD budget cuts (which a friend who is an expert on HUD-related matters said could lead to a loss of 10% of occupied units -- 800 people???) and by 1,000 people in families being pushed out of Rapid-Re-Housing (RRH) due to program requirements that they can't possibly satisfy. 9,300+ homeless people in DC in 2018???
B2 -- An April primary (like in 2014) would have been before the count results were released and could not have affected her re-election bid. The September primary would have given Bowser critics four months to forget about the count results. A June primary makes it very likely that people will remember the May 2018 count results. Maybe the media can and will continually cover the developing crisis and will highlight various missed opportunities between now and June 2018. Bowser is highly vulnerable to the full truth.
C -- Truth about count and progress:
-- In the last week of January 2015 DC had 7,298 homeless people.
-- If we apply 2/3 of the 1,052-person increase from 15 to 16, then DC had 8,000 homeless people on October 1st, 2015 (the actual start of the 5-year plan).
-- The plan should have been engineered to create a net decrease of 1,460 or even 1,600 homeless people per year.
-- With 7,473 homeless people and three years left in the plan, DC Gov must create at least a 2,500-person net decrease per year to satisfy the five-year plan. The more they fail, the harder it gets to succeed.
-- The 877-person decrease from 16 to 17 is still almost 200 people over the 15 count and only 523 below the presumed 10/1/15 count. DC Government would still need to house people at about twice the rate that they needed to in 2015 in order to satisfy THEIR plan. It doesn't look like they'll succeed in that respect.
D -- Missed opportunities:
The HOME grant could have housed 1,000 families (3,500 people) for a year which would have put the current number of homeless people right around 4,000 and made success much more likely -- maintenance of effort not withstanding. HUD might eliminate that grant program.
E -- Penny-ante government thinking:
Just days after DC Gov's forfeited $15.8M HOME grant hit the news, ICH members spoke of efforts to help SSI-eligible people get their federal benefits so that they can pay $220/month out of a $735 disability check and thereby alleviate resources which can be used to help other homeless people. Things that make ya go "Hmmm". Juxtapose.
This is the kind of stuff that media should highlight for the next 12.5 months -- at least. DC's current mayor Muriel Bowser and future Mayor Karl Racine received this via e-mail. Maybe he'll learn from her mistakes and do better.....starting now.