City Desk

Fenty’s Explanation of Homeless Cuts Doesn’t Hold Water

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and his human services director need to get on the same page.

For the last month or so, the Fenty administration has been getting hammered on surprise cuts to homeless services. Dozens of providers cried foul after they were notified by the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness that, due to trying economic times, their budgets stood to be cut by 15 percent or more.

A week ago, Fenty made with some answers. In his weekly wee-hours appearance with WRC-TV's Barbara Harrison, he called the perception that homeless funding was being cut "either a miscommunication or a distortment of the facts" (forward to 3:30).

Said Fenty, "We have a contractor that works for us that overspent their budget last budget year. We gave them the same amount this year that we gave them last year, but last year they overspent it." That's a clear reference to the Community Partnership, which has contracted with the city since 1994 to distribute and oversee funding of homelessness programs.

Only one problem: At a D.C. Council hearing the day before, Fenty's human services chief mentioned virtually nothing about the Community Partnership overspending. Rather, Director Clarence Carter explained, the city had handed the group $10 million in federal funds last year that weren't going to be available for the coming fiscal year. And here's what Carter wrote to homeless activist Eric Sheptock in a Tuesday e-mail: 'The TCP contract was $38m in 2009, we expended $50m. The gap in spending is the additional dollars I added to homeless services during my tenure.'

In other words, if the Community Partnership was overspending its budget, it was doing it with the full faith and credit of the Fenty administration. And Fenty should know very well how homeless funding works, having chaired the council's human services committee prior to rising to the mayoralty.

During the interview, Harrison tried making the point that "maybe there were just more homeless people that they have to serve?"

But Mayor Fiscal Rectitude wouldn't have it: "There are inefficiencies in government, and we should not be afraid to say, no matter what agency it is, people have to spend money responsibly....Overspending your budget is not a recipe for us just giving you more money. We're not going to do that."

Fenty, told on Tuesday that his comments were disputable at best, passed LL to a spokesperson.

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