City Desk

Just How Bad Are Homeless Services In The District?

blog_fentyhead-1-300x200Earlier this week, we learned that Mayor Adrian Fenty's administration dipped into funds for needy families to help make up for his Summer Youth Employment Program's budget shortfall. The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute reported:

"The Fenty administration chose to cover the overspending in summer jobs by transferring funds meant to help vulnerable families with basic food and shelter needs. The Department of Human Services proposed to use those funds —stimulus dollars from TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families —  for other important purposes, including upgrading its case management system and expanding employment and training options for TANF recipients."

Fenty and Co. might have had the support of extending the summer job's program if homeless services weren't so badly in need.

City Desk has heard reports of homeless families having to be put up in hotels or sleep in cars because D.C. General's emergency is filled up. The number of homeless families has reached unprecedented levels.  On Aug. 2, Marta Beresin, a lawyer with the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, testified at the hearing on the SYEP funding:

"As of two weeks ago, 543 families were on the wait list for emergency shelter, 27 of whom were sleeping in cars, bus stations, and other places not meant for human habitation....Since 2008, when the recession first hit, family homelessness has skyrocketed by 36.3 percent in the District...At this time last year there were 35 families at D.C. General, the overflow emergency shelter for families. Today, there are 135 and every unit has been full for many weeks."

The legal clinic has more details on the plight of homeless families on their new blog. City Desk caught up with Armeen Payne, 32. He became homeless on July 14. For nearly two weeks, he says, he and his two kids ages 2 and 4, were left to fend for themselves, knocking on neighbors' doors for places to stay. District social services workers told them the shelters were filled up. Some days, they walked to museums downtown or sat under a tree. Strangers gave them water. Payne's kids napped on buses or wherever they happened to be.

Most of the time, Payne and his kids hunted for shelter.

"It was miserable especially with the heat index as high as it was," he says. "It was just very hectic with the heat alone. I'm glad it was more of the heat to a certain degree than the cold winter days you know? It was very hectic."

All Payne could do was wait for shelter beds to open up. "I was well over qualified for being in the shelter with my kids," he says. "I understand that there's conditions and policies and processes and how you go about doing things. I try to be so patient with that. But it was just too much."

Payne says:  "I dealt with it the best way I could with the kids. I was more concerned with one of them falling out or just maybe frustrated with me and resenting me because we're just walking around, trying to find shade, you know kill time. Hoping that I'll get a call or some luck."

Payne found old neighbors willing to house them. He had food stamps; his extended family did provide them with an occasional hot meal. Payne says he was recently able to move his family into D.C. General. But he'd really like a job.

"I like driving jobs," he says. "I want to be a limousine driver, and one day own my own limousine company. I'm pursuing  getting my license...because my license expired."

*file photo by Darrow Montgomery.

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  • Rick Mangus

    ALL city services are bad not only for the homeless but for ALL people on any kind of public assistance! It's a joke the city wishes that YOU would fall between the cracks and out of their system, I know because I have worked with people who were one step to being on the street!

    You go in ANY social services office in DC and you get nothing but BELLIGERENT HEIFERS with ATTITUDES, sitting there eating their cheese curls and sucking on a Diet Coke or doing their nails, treating people like shit on the bottom of their shoe!

  • LOL

    Rick is right. It would be interesting to see all of those people fired.

  • Charlie

    Late last year a neighborhood organization seeking to upgrade the local parks was crowing on the area listserve that they had received a $1.5 million PLANNING grant for one of the area parks. What do you think they are planning for, a gold-plated jungle gym?

    This week the Gallup organization released a report on political ideology by the states. Washington DC was listed as the most liberal place in the country, with 42% of the population describing themselves as liberal (25 points higher than those who identify as conservative).

    Do you think liberals would support the Fenty administrations priorities?

  • Manor

    DC spends more than any surrounding jurisdiction on homeless services, not to mention other forms of public assistance. This money is largely wasted by the enormously corrupt bundle of red tape and corruption called DHS. This agency was barely functional during the pre-home rule days, became utterly dysfunctional and corrupt during Barry, was similarly neglected and mismanaged during Kelly (by Gray), and no one has really dared touch it since due to its union and legal strength. You literally cannot touch those employees. Remember the uproar over firing people after the Benita Jacks killings, and their reinstatement? WTF do you think Fenty and Co. were trying to do there? Clean house, and they largely failed as its not legally possible.

    Please tell me if I'm wrong on any of this. The more interesting question is where is the money actually going? Is it thousands of well paid do-nothing employees (Ricks 'heifers'), invisible embezzlement, contracting fraud, a combination, or something different?

  • Manor

    Woops, submitted too soon, meant to clarify that CFSA and DHS are not the same but I think they have similar rules regarding employment and termination etc.

  • Brahmin

    Manor why when independent agency fact checked what you said the phrase BS comes to mind.

    Ex-mayor Pratt says she welcomes questions about Gray's cabinet service

    Sharon PrattAs Mayor Adrian Fenty sharpens his campaign rhetoric, it's clear he wants the press and public to pay attention to opponent Vincent Gray's last stint as a government executive -- as human services director under Mayor Sharon Pratt from 1991 to 1994.

    "When you talk about fiscal discipline, what are you talking about?" Fenty asked rhetorically last Thursday. "It can't be the early '90s when the Department of Human Services was the the No. 1 agency that overspent its budget and caused the the District of Columbia government to go into financial red ink and have the control board come in."

    That not-so-veiled reference to Gray's service -- a useful talking point for Fenty, who needs to parry Gray's increasing attacks on his fiscal record -- has been accompanied by The Gray Files, a haphazard Web site produced by Fenty ally Ronald Moten that offers news clips from Gray's DHS days, not to mention whisperings from Fenty allies painting Gray as a relic of the days of deep District dysfunction.

    But Pratt, who is emerging from a mostly quiet post-mayoralty to lend support to her ex-deputy, says she welcomes any scrutiny of Gray's service.

    "That's a debate we can win," Pratt said Sunday evening at a Gray fundraiser. "That's a debate that Vince can win hands down."

    The Department of Human Services in Gray's directorial days encompassed myriad social programs totaling more than $1 billion in yearly spending -- one-third of the city budget at the time. What was once under Gray's purview is now split between not only the human services department, but the Department of Health, the Department of Health Care Finance, the Department on Disability Services, the Child and Family Services Agency, and the Department of Mental Health, among other agencies.

    The ex-mayor -- who entered office as Sharon Pratt Dixon, left office as Sharon Pratt Kelly, and now, in business as a consultant, is simply Sharon Pratt -- says that in spite of the fiscal challenges Fenty alluded to, she and Gray can boast a record of reform.

    "We were out there early on providing disposable needles and condoms, and we were able to stem the tide of HIV/AIDS," Pratt said. "We brought that infant mortality rate down, that was under Vince's leadership. We had terrific prenatal care programs, and we dealt with a whole lot of the ongoing issues that we inherited in a compressed period of time....There's almost not an issue that ultimately that we didn't address. That was Vince."

    The reference to "issues we inherited" points to a distinction that may have been largely lost in the 15-plus years since Pratt left office. While Pratt entered office as a reformer bent on shaking up Marion Barry's bloated cronyocracy, her inability to crack down on spending and the subsequent imposition of the federal control board -- not to mention the short memories of new District residents -- have left Gray vulnerable to being painted as just another old-school D.C. politico. Hence Fenty's reference to "the early '90s" -- conflating the Barry and Pratt years in many voters' minds.

    Pratt says the facts will outweigh what are thus-far vague allusions.

    "We were one of the first to bat at reform in this country," Pratt said Sunday night, noting that several of her deputies were chosen for high federal posts in the Clinton administration. Those include Lorraine Green, who became a top administrator in the Office of Personnel Management, went on to executive positions at Amtrak, and now chairs the Gray campaign.

    This much is clear: There's plenty of digging into Gray's pre-council record for reporters (like this one) to do in the coming months.

    File photo by Dayna Smith/TWP, 1988

  • Manor

    So you're saying DHS is well run and homeless services are now great? I wasn't swiping at Gray, but the ineffectiveness of DHS and DC government in general. Good luck with your campaign, which won't change squat in DC given the myriad problems spread throughout the agencies and people of the District of Columbia.

  • downtown rez

    I'll take Tony Williams' endorsement over Sharon Pratt Kelly's anyday.
    As for OPM- Lorrian Green can't hold a candle to Obama's director, who had exceedingly nice things to sat about Fenty's employment and Human rights records at the Frank Kameny ceremony.

  • hymesb

    Someone please explain. WHy is the Citypaper so blatantly pro-gray? I can understand pressing the administration. I really do understand.

    However, Gray seems like to worst kind of politician. So so negative. And, while you may say that he isn't as bad a manager as Fenty points out....everything points to Gray being, at best, a moderate talent. And, he wasn't even a leader within his peer group (60-80 year olds now). He just got old enough and waited in line long enough for his turn to come. I don't get it. That is asking for a return to Barry.

    But, good to see that Marion Barry and Kelly have started to wear their Gray stickers. That way, everyone will know the real deal. Back to the future. Or, the past is the future.


    @downtown rez; maybe Mr. Kameny wasn't aware of Mr. Fenty's 8/31/2005 admonition from the DC Bar Counsel when Mr. Fenty was found to have violated Rule 1.1, 1.3(a), Rule 8.4(d), Rule 1.16(d); a ruling by Superior Court Judge Jose Lopez who issued the order referring to the case of Mr. Williams Hardy.

    Mr. Fenty was appointed general guardian and conservator over William Hardy Sr.; Mr. Hardy had a credit union account where his retirement benefits were deposited. Various "unknown people" made numerous withdrawals from the account; a total of $22, 500 dollars was taken from the account.

    Mr. Hardy later received $15,000 from Mr. Fenty, however, 1/3 of the money came from Mr. Hardy’s own account because Mr. Fenty said he "found" the money.

    Now, I could draw many conclusions for this about Mr. Fenty's character and integrity except he has proven the limited depth of both by his actions while in office, this case is just the start of his corrupt behavior and is culminated by late night checks cut to Frat brothers, and settlements to same frat brothers made by the DC Attorney General on Mr. Fenty's behalf. So, excuse me if I take Ms. Pratt's words as proof of Mr. Gray's integrity, leadership and character and Mr. Fenty's own actions as proof of his lack of integrity, leadership and character.

    Sorry, but I won't drink your Green Kool-Aid.

  • tired

    First of all I would not believe anything Ron Moten says, he is a deperate man who is receiving tax dollars for doing nothing. Fenty of all people running around stating transparencies and we haven't seen anything yet, except for him tripping over the lies he tells. Bravo to "what a waste. I was always wondering what actually happen to that gentleman's money.

  • tired

    hymesb, you never cease to amaze me. Can you please pull your lips off Fenty's behind for five minutes. If Fenty is the future ___please ___give me the past

  • downtown rez

    Hey, what a waste
    Maybe, why don't you ask him and report back when you've something substantial to contribute?
    Anyway, I was speaking of of the laudatory remarks made by John Berry, President Obama's Director of the Office of Personnel Management. Not any remarks made by the good Mr Kamany, who was there to he honored.
    Like I said, I'll take the endorsement of Tony Williams and the very good remarks of the sitting OPM director over that of failed Sharon Pratt-Kelly, and Gray's campaign manager anyday.

  • Capo

    Looks like Fenty people are working the blogs again.. First, Fenty's minions wrote how much they enjoyed the Ron Moten mixtape. Now they provide excuses for poor mean spirited decisions. The CityPaper says what the Post doesn't.

  • Amanda
    Will someone please call Vince Gray an ambulance because if the truth hurts than these facts must be to blame for the reason Gray's has mask er I mean face has fallen. Gray's hecklers er sorry again, I meant to say handlers are some of the most ignorant and uncouth persons out here. Why would anyone think yelling and screaming at people is an effective way to promote your candidate, especially one who is running on the premise of being personable and polite. The only issue Gray will firmly stand on is that he does not like Fenty.
    In regards to Mr. Moten, as a commenter on the post blog articulated, "I would assume that a convicted crack dealer thinks more clearly than a convicted crack user.
    A lot of people that un-objectively criticize are usually the ones whose primary contribution to community activism is commentary. I like Marion Barry, well not really, but that’s another story. In any event, can someone please enlighten me as to how many schools, parks, libraries, etc did Mr. Barry do in 16 years? I do not discount the good things he did do but why exactly has he been stripped of some of his council committee duties? Isn’t Mr. Gray Chair of the Council and would therefore have a say in what is the determined fate of Marion Barry’s council career? Oh yeah right; they are cool like that.

    Gray discounts an endorsement of Fenty by the Washington Post, but their blessing sure was nice enough to put on his campaign literature that I received just 9 days ago. If Gray has such a problem with jobs than why hasn't he said or did anything about it, oh this rhetoric is only convenient during election time. Mr. Gray, please tell the public why City Council originally approved the 7 weeks proposed by Mayor Fenty for the duration of the Summer Youth Program than recently reduced it to only 6 weeks? Please don't say it was due to having to cut funding for the homeless. The money that would have been used for the proposal in fact came from federally appropriated funding under the TANF program. These funds can be allocated in a variety of options are not solely earmarked as homeless funding. Since we are on topic of funding, did not Mr. Gray cut funding in the middle of the night for the H Street/Benning Road Streetcar project? Is it not a coincidence that the same man who illegally puts up candidate yard signs on public property seems to think he does not need a permit a fence like every other citizen of DC.

    Hey Mr. Gray, when are you going to take that illegally constructed fence down? Last but certainly not least, did not the City give you an opportunity at leadership and as the Director of DHS, you lost control of your own agency. Anytime the federal government has to take a city over, you don't deserve to be the chair of anything but cell block C inmate committee.

    Now lets look at Vince Gray, Sharon Pratt, DHS, and DC General
    Facts: Under these “leaders” our entire city went into federal receivership, in fact some DC agencies such as CSOSA are still under federal receivership. We lost the redskins under this administration and how embarrassing is it for Sharon Pratt Kelly as the incumbent to have lost, surprise Mr. Cracktown, Marion Barry. Wow so these are some of Gray’s most staunch supporters? Under Gray the daily census for homeless persons was at 500 persons. So why is it that under Fenty, 1000 persons have been placed in permanent supportive housing. The HPRP program was launched under Fenty’s administration is a federally funded program that is geared to homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing. DC General is not at the numbers they are claiming, how do I know this, because I just helped ten families within the past month move from there into the HPRP programs and transitional housing. Make the record reflect that I do not work for the government. Yard Signs, mock elections, and bombarding people with propaganda do not win elections. Proven results and reeducating people on the facts does win. I am a ward 8 resident so if you want to talk about change and need are a visual person, just walk around that particular ward. Camps Simms, new units at Henson Ridge, Anacostia, Ballou, Washington Highlands, Bald Eagle, the old Congress Heights school, and much more have already been fully completed or ground has been broken, Again what in the world has Gray been doing for the past 4 years? Just tell me one thing and please don’t say UDC, I have enough laughs for today.

  • LOL

    My opinion of the previous mayors is that Barry was crappy, Kelly did try to reform stuff but she was really under a huge deal of pressure with the city's poorly managed finances and a huge crime wave [that was a problem in most urban areas], Barry was bad again but the control board made the tough decisions nobody else would, Williams set a vision for growing this city, Fenty capitalized on that vision and does deserve credit for continuing the plans Williams developed [he really could have ended them].

    And now we have a choice between Gray and Fenty. I don't think it is as simple as old vs. new. I don't think it is accurate to say it is about forward vs. the Barry years. I think it is more about which leadership style you prefer and which issues matter most to you.

    If the biggest issue for you is education, you may lean towards Fenty because of his support of Rhee. If the biggest issue for you is employment, you may lean towards Gray [he is the only candidate with a jobs plan at the moment].

    I am more along the lines of Colbert King [for once]. I am more concerned about financial solvency. If we don't manage that well, we will be going back to the Barry/broke years, regardless of the candidates.

    At the moment, I am divided on which candidate will really take the hard line and say "we can't afford to do that." I am not convinced that Gray will do it because of the big tent he wants to build. I am not convinced that Fenty will do it because he did just attempt to break the budget on summer jobs and seems to want to spend millions without checks and balances.

    What Williams did well, and both candidates have failed to do, when campaigning is to lay out what the city will look like in 4 years. Fenty's "look at what I have done for you" message doesn't answer the question. It reminds me of a bad movie when a lady tries to leave a pimp or bad relationship and the man points out all the furs and diamonds he has given them. Gray's "I am going to do it differently" message is equally poor. He sounds like the man who is trying to woo said lady with a carrot while holding a stick behind his back. I think I will go with Leo... KIDDING.

    both of them have to do a better job of saying the reasons why people should vote for them instead of trying to make their opponent look foolish.

  • LOL

    Amanda, since you are new, I will offer some comments. Please feel free to share them with your colleagues in the campaign office.

    "Isn’t Mr. Gray Chair of the Council and would therefore have a say in what is the determined fate of Marion Barry’s council career?" I think they did that to the extent of the authority they could. I could be wrong but there was a big independent investigation, report and censure and committee stripping.

    He is the council chair, so his role would be a little different than the mayors. But the commenters here know this.

    "In any event, can someone please enlighten me as to how many schools, parks, libraries, etc did Mr. Barry do in 16 years?" That is better. Very good point. The answer I believe is one library. But since you brought up new buildings, why has the the library budget been cut so that no more new libraries will be done and other agencies involved in scandals got increases to their building budgets ?
    Should we hold Fenty responsible for that? [I think we hold the mayor and council responsible. But you are the campaigner, tell me why this should not show poorly on Fenty the person who drafts the budget for council to approve]

    You had a few nice jabs but us regulars like to take issues apart, argue about them, and even call each other names when we disagree. But we don't really like people writing like we are stupid don't read or watch the nws. Check the comments, we do both. Thanks

  • Capo

    Amanda works for the Post or Fenty Campaign. Her comments are in line with the Opinion piece in today's Post. Try again.

  • downtown rez

    re: I think they did that to the extent of the authority they could
    Um, no. They didn't. The council could have introduced legislation forbidding awarding no-bid contracts to people they receive and put out for not receiving oral sex from. I mean, really, is not fucking the person you are giving tax dollars to really too much to ask?
    The council makes the laws in our good city, and I think we all know the ethics bar is set too low, and that they did nothing to move it. Tell me- why didn't Vince show character and (and real leadership) and pass legislation that makes sleeping with people they're giving our tax dollars to illegal?

    The mayor proposes, the council disposes.

  • Capo

    The funny thing is, the Post didn't allow comments on this "Opinion" piece. Guess last weeks Poll didn't go so well after their endorsement of Fenty.

  • LOL


    In responding to Amanda's post, I wrote about the council using their power to the extent of the authority they could when dealing with Barry and his mistress. You are writing about the council's larger authority to deal with contracting moving forward. I think there is a difference.

    Even if the council passed a law changing the rules for awarding no-bid contracts, I don't believe that it could not be used to punish Barry's bad acts because those acts occurred before the new law would come into force.

    I agree that the city's contracting rules need major reform. I just thought it was misleading of Amanda to suggest that the council could punish Barry beyond the steps they took.

  • downtown rez

    Thanks, LOL. I do agree with you.
    My point is that "punishing" a member by revoking their committee chairship (whatever, that'll last maybe a year) isn't all that impressive. It's actually pretty fucking weak.
    More impressive would be actually doing their legislatie jobs and passing laws to prevent such council sex for money deals in the future. Seriously- it's still legal for councilmembers to metaphorically screw the taxpayers by literally screwing the favored contractors they give our money to.
    So, what's to stop this from happening again? Character and integrity? Puh-lease.
    I'd have expected this episode to at least result in some laws that forbided lawmaker "blow for pay" going forward. But I guess the results of all the planning and inclusion just didn't turn out that way.
    Character... Integrity...Leadership. Sorry. Fresh out. Check back when Brown or Orange are chair.

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    Why does every Fenty supporter here simply choose to ignore the issue raised in the article. Fenty's re-routing invaluable funds from a non-voting demographic to look a few weeks of a worthless program that might get him some votes from the parents of these kids. I don't know about you, but the higher good for me is having a few families housed rather than ten thousand kids getting a hundred bucks more for doing nothing.

  • DCDem

    @dr: I never knew you had such a filthy mouth.

    Who knew....

    It all comes together now.

  • Korrupt

    I could care less about what John Berry has to say. Hasn't done anything yet at OPM anyway.

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