Housing Complex

Welcome to Hypothermia Season

D.C. General, already filled to capacity. (Lydia DePillis)Brrr, nippy out there, isn't it? Welcome to November, when the city's winter plan for homeless services goes into effect, and all people must be housed when the mercury falls below freezing. The Interagency Council on Homelessness approved it just last week–much later than usual–after some controversy over the shelters that could (or could not) be made brought online.

Here's the main hang-up: The plan depends heavily on being able to house homeless men, women, and children in apartments, so they don't have to rely on emergency shelters. While agreeing on principle with the goal of housing more people, a representative from the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless opposed the plan on the grounds that the city's plans to actually fund that housing are mostly just wishful thinking.

While winter homeless services are expected to be funded at the same level as last year–$2.2 million–this year's plan has fewer beds for single people budgeted. This year counts 1,585 beds (both apartments and shelters) for men, compared to 1,730 last year, and 523 beds for women compared to 592 last year. In response to last year's undersupply of family units, however, there are supposed to be 439 this year, compared to 295 last year. As Jason pointed out this morning, D.C. General has almost reached its 135-family capacity (and they'll now share a campus with the United Planning Organization's opiate treatment center, which just moved from 33 N Street NE).

The plan includes this hopeful sentence: "Should the need for shelter exceed levels of capacity identified in this plan, the District will open additional facilities to address the need for shelter." It's not supposed to be as much of a doozy of a snow season, but since the Department of Human Services is still projecting 10 percent more people needing beds than last year, they can probably bet on needing to do so.

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