City Desk

Big Worry: District Homeless Shelters Are Already At Capacity

This is a bad sign. The weather is still pretty decent. But homeless shelters are at capacity or over capacity, according to recent census figures.  On October 27, there were no vacancies for homeless men, and shelters for homeless women were over capacity by two. There were zero vacancies listed for homeless families.

Yesterday, there were four vacancies at men's shelters. Women shelters were over capacity by one. There were zero vacancies for homeless families.

At the beginning of October, there appeared to be less than 25 vacancies. As the month progressed, the trend tilted toward the majority of shelters at capacity or over capacity. By October 12, men's shelters had four vacancies and women's shelters were over capacity. And again, no vacancies for families.

Three days later, there was only one vacancy listed for the men's shelters. On Oct. 18, the shelter system was over capacity by one.

"I think we're seeing the expected bump up in demand," says Patricia Fugere, executive director of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. "We've been anticipating a bump up, and it's there and it's there before the weather really has snapped cold."

Fugere worries about the District's level of commitment. Government officials have promised an additional 10 percent increase in bed space during cold weather. But the funding would remain at '08-'09 levels. "There's a concern that those numbers are playing it too close to the margin," she says.

Fugere adds that the issues concerning the homeless services cuts still have not been worked out. "We haven't heard anything," she says. "We're very concerned about the capacity issue."

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  • Tired of the BS

    Hey, I know, let's reopen the Franklin Shelter. It's just sitting there empty. For the second winter in a row.

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  • 1967dc

    open up the Wilson Building at night!

  • Jason Cherkis

    Franklin Shelter is a good place to start.

  • niello8

    didnt fenty promise he would place all of the homeless in SRO housing by last year? whoops.

  • Jason Cherkis

    Fenty was too busy cutting ribbons. Glad we got that fountain in Columbia Heights! Side note: that is perhaps the ugliest use of public space I've seen in a while: tilted squares of grass around a fountain. Why didn't they just make it all green space and plant some trees?

  • DR

    they couuulllld....get jobs

  • 1967dc

    DR..This shows your stupidity. Most of the homeless suffer from mental issues. MAAAABYEEEE you could get ivolved...idiot.

  • 4m123

    If the city can make available an extra 10% bed space in the cold, why not in the warm, too?

  • mch

    DR isn't stupid. It's not their fault that they've got mental issues. It IS their fault that they didn't address them before it was too late. They didn't need to keep drinking/drugging back in the day. They didn't need to leave their community and our society.

    DC Govt is more than generous with different types of benefits. Churches offer help. Communities offer help. If someone is homeless in this environment, sorry, but it's Darwinian. Good riddance.

  • Andy Silver

    MCH... What type of benefits are you talking about? Do any of them have wait lists that take nearly a decade? Do you think our mental health system in the District works perfectly? Do you think that everyone who wants to work in the District can find a job and that our unemployment rate of over 11 percent is a fabrication? I don't think anyone who actually interacts with any of the systems that you describe would agree with you, and that includes the District Govt, Churches, and nonprofits.

  • 1967dc


  • 1967dc are a complete tool! Well at least you've made DRs day..he's no longer the biggest idiot!...Peace brother

  • R.

    Reopening the Franklin shelter would be a good start.

  • J

    Im glad some folks are pointing out that most have mental issues. It would be a start to have better mental health counseling/facilities in the Dc metro area for people with low incomes or no incomes. I always said if I became a philanthropist some day, I would focus on helping the mentally ill in DC- thus in turn helping get folks off the streets.

  • Downtown rez

    Reopening Franklin is a horrible idea. I'm glad that ship has sailed.
    Far more preferable would be some way to compel treatment of afore-said mental and substance abuse issues, before the homeless with them reach that "imminent danger to themselves or others" stage. Even at that stage, they usually only get ER care or, maybe, a few days in St E's before they are back on the street and the cycle starts again. IMO there are a lot of people who want money, a place to sleep, food now and again... But far fewer who want real help, and who demonstrate they want real help by following through on their end of any bargain.

    This next part is anecdotal. I know two people who basically travel from city to city making sure their place on the wait for affordable housing in those cities doesn't lapse. The funny thing is that DC's wait list (now that it's been culled) is something like 20 years. And wait lists are similarly long at those other cities that still maintain them in the first place. It's odd to me that people would put their hope into that system.

  • Psycho

    You all talk about mental illness as if it were something that CAN be treated, like diabetes or something. This is a fantasy.

    Look at treatment outcomes (whatever type of treatment, it doesn't much matter) for, say, schizophrenia. It's real depressing (no pun intended).

  • proballdc

    Psycho, don't even waste your breath with this crowd. They would tell you that if you were not alive you wouldn't get cancer. I have known the best among us to get dementia. Or, how about this, many of those homeless among us are veterans of foreign wars that were used up and forgotten when they returned. This crowd would say, if they hadn't enlisted in the military they wouldn't have had to worry about going to war.

    Really, that is the crowd that you are talking to.

  • Downtown rez

    Hanging out on the street all day and "sleeping" in emergency shelters at night? Is anyone saying that's treatment?
    I've met people on the street (and tried to help them!) with visual, auditory, hallucinations. Not from drugs, but from how they're wired. That's aside from the folks who are 100% sure that president so and so knows who they are and will rescue them, or public official this or that is actively trying to kill them.
    Low barrier shelters do nothing for these people. If you want to really learn something, kids, try taking a tour on the night shift with DMH outreach.

  • Downtown rez

    And yeah, sometimes medication can help.
    Not saying it makes things perfect- sometimes nothing can.
    But it's better than what amounts to slow suicide.

  • Psycho

    Proballdc, yup, some people can't accept the idea that terrible, uncurable things can happen to someone through no fault of their own. Maybe it's a way to deal with the fear of that terrible thing happening to themselves.

  • Psycho

    Downtown rez, on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is normal and 10 is non-functional schizophrenic, medication might bring a person at a 10 down to an 8. With that "improvement" comes a host of side effects for which most people say "it's just not worth it".

  • Downtown rez

    It very much depends on the person.
    Can we agree emergency shelters do little for non-functioning schizophrenics?
    Frankly, I favor institutionalization for their own sake. i understand the legal and practical difficulties with that. For example, and using your example, what's to stop a "5" from oscillating between a "1" and a "9".
    Still, low barrier emergency shelters are not the answer. And they are over-run by the demand pose by such chronic problems.

  • Psycho

    DT Rez, yes, I agree with your last post.

  • Amber

    Does it make people feel better to blame people without homes for their lack of a home? Does that take away our obligation to help those who need some assistance or to pressure our government to provide adequate shelter space?
    I don't think anyone thinks that shelters are the ideal place for people to work on getting jobs or an education or successfully treating mental and physical health conditions, but I would think we could all agree that shelters are a better environment than the street. Housing is even better than shelter, but DC isn't providing enough of that either.
    People are lining up every night to try to get a roof over their heads-- people like you and me and people not as obviously like you and me. DC is failing to provide the most basic human right of shelter and housing to thousands of its residents, many of them whose families have been in this city for generations. We shouldn't be lashing out at our neighbors who have fallen on hard times, we should be figuring out how to lift them up-- or at the very least how to prevent them from suffering on the street.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    In a communist system, being homeless or unemployed is illegal. You go to the government & it places you in a job & an apartment.

    Yes, there is no "freedom" to die on the streets & no "freedom" to be a bum, but there is freedom from dying of no health insurance, freedom from starving, freedom from ignorance, freedom from superstitions like religions, freedom from racism, sexism, & other plagues of capitalism, etc.

  • E.C.D.C.

    wow this is sad .... this shows a big needs for freakin' employment.