City Desk

Can Maryland Residents Really Use D.C.’s Homeless Services?

As the Washington Post reports, yesterday's D.C. Council hearing on homeless services turned city officials into Sharron-Angle style fear mongers. Officials claimed that outsiders i.e. Maryland and Virginia residents were utilizing the city's homeless services. Officials stated that 10 percent of city beds were being taken up by these interlopers:

"A study of the rolls at the Virginia Williams Family Resource Center, the central intake center for families seeking emergency housing, showed a significant number of nonresidents using city services, said Clarence H. Carter, human services director.

The District must 'jealously guard those resources for those people who wake up and go to sleep in D.C.,' Carter said. 'The District does not have the capacity to share its compassion with the region.'"

So is this true? Do residents from VA really want to try out our less-crappy homeless services? Do they too want to wait around at the intake center for families-the Virginia Williams Family Resource Center?

Patricia Mullahy Fugere, executive director of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, is skeptical of this trend. "It's BS," she says. "Right now if someone comes to Virginia Williams, and they're not registered in D.C., they don't get served."

Fugere says that anyone applying for shelter has to prove they are presently in the District and intend to stay. Proof of stay means showing that your children are enrolled in a District school or providing proof that your last known address was in the city. Other forms of proof include public benefit records, a District driver's license or I.D."There is a residency requirement," Fugere says.

One thing that may show people are coming from Maryland and Virginia, Fugere suggests, is if the case workers at the resource center aren't taking down a thorough case history. A homeless family may have stayed at a relative's house in Maryland for a few weeks, but their last known address may still be a District address—and the case workers aren't noting that.

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  • DCexpat

    Its also likely the intake workers don't have the heart to turn folks away, and bless them for it. Like the people supposedly sent by cab to Tommy Wells' office, what's he supposed to say? Get Lost?

    I wonder if the reciprocal is true? Are 10% of MD and VA services used by DC residents? If so lets just call it a wash and go. I'd bet my bottom dollar that more than 10% of MD and VA law enforcement resources in border counties are devoted to DC residents, and bless them for that!

  • Kathy

    So, if this isn't happening, why did the incident happen that Tommy Wells described in the Post (woman with 7 kids referred by PG County and D.C. is paying for their shelter)? Or is that example fiction?

  • Amber

    Re Kathy's question: The family Councilmember Wells talked about APPLIED for shelter in DC, but didn't get it. DC never paid for their shelter. (Wells put them up in a hotel in MD with constituent services money.) That's the key difference. The Director of DHS said that 10% of applicants for family shelter came from out of DC, but that doesn't mean they got shelter. I don't think anyone disputes that people come from outside DC to apply for shelter sometimes, but the current law says they aren't eligible and the family intake center regularly turns them away. They aren't taking up city-funded beds.