Housing Complex

Non-D.C. Homeless to be Turned Away From Shelters Come March

Not from here? Don't come here. (Lydia DePillis)

In a climactic vote just now in the Wilson Building, the City Council passed Councilmember Tommy Wells' proposal to require that homeless shelters turn away people who can't demonstrate District residency during the coldest part of the year. By my count of the 30-day Congressional review period, the bill will go into effect on March 16, only a couple weeks before the end of hypothermia season.

The discussion was some of the most emotional and at times accusatory I've seen in the Council chambers this budget season. Four Councilmembers spoke passionately against the measure, with Harry Thomas reminding his colleagues that baby Jesus was displaced while homeless. Phil Mendelson called the bill "cruel," and Mary Cheh said she could find the money in her committee's budget to take care of all comers if it came to that. "When I go home at night, and I'm scurrying to my front door freezing and shivering, and I think of this measure, I just don't want to do this," Jim Graham added.

Wells called bullshit on his colleagues, reminding them of past opposition to shelters in their own wards, and the council's refusal to raise new revenue. "This is a hollow call for justice," he said. (Though, to be fair, Graham and Thomas led the charge to hike taxes on high income earners). "...What you want to do is just dump more families into D.C. General."

Wells received the full-throated support of David Catania, who wondered whether homeless advocates opposing the bill had been down to Richmond or Annapolis to lobby for more social services funding in surrounding jurisdictions. For her part, Ward 4 Councilwoman Muriel Bowser took the arguments of those who would continue to welcome homeless people from outside the District as a personal attack for her objection to using a District-owned building on Spring Road NW as a family shelter.

"I hear the undercurrent of this conversation," she said. "I didn't see any suggestions for Wisconsin Avenue, Connecticut Avenue...they want to overconcentrate in our ward, and I won't stand for it."

So, the bill goes into effect. Important caveats: Low-barrier shelters, as well as victims of domestic abuse and human trafficking, are exempted. Families seeking shelter have three days to provide evidence of residency, which can include a mailing address, school enrollment, registration for public benefits, or the written testimony of a "verifier." Oh, and families may not be housed in "non-apartment-style" shelters, but when no non-apartment-style shelters are available, private rooms will suffice.

For more analysis, read Kathryn Baer.

  • http://www.amamimus.com/solutions.html AMamimus (Real World) Solutions

    Once the family provides "proof" of residency, then the question becomes, "If you live there, why are you coming to the shelter?" Now, if the family head replies, my relative was the leaseholder...poof goes the proof of residency.

    Everybody needs to stop playing games with the semantics. Does a missing family need to turn up in the spring thaw to get the point across?

  • Lynette

    Okay I'm confused now. This has made my head hurt because I don't understand what in the hell DC is doing. Maybe I just don't understand what being homeless. I always thought it was because you didn't have a home. I thought home = resident. How can one prove residency if they don't have a home. This new law seems like a killing law to me, but then again what do I know

  • Rick Mangus

    GOOD!

  • Here me out

    If I have been homeless for two years, may I get grandfathered into the bill requirement? I am telling you Tommy you are priceless what if the need was to prove that you're for the entire Ward 6 area and not the Capitol Hill section would have you shaking in your boots?

  • B A

    No surrounding jurisdiction is sending their homeless into the District. As for Ms Bowser, there are a couple of agencies on both Conn. and Wisc. avenues that are housing the homeless. Unlike Mr. Fenty who promised to house all of the cities homeless this lazy do nothing council is trying to hide the fact that shelters were closed without any real thought to the folks that would lose their housing during this economic crisis. Furthermore, they have done nothing to resolve the fact that there are still families waiting at DC General for assistance, just like they were at DC village.....

  • WARD4NDC

    Why would DC taxpayers pay to take care of homeless people from Maryland, Viriginia, and other States? Do Maryland and Virginia take care of DC homeless people. Once I went to the library in Montgomery County and they told me, I had to be a Montgomery County resident to use their computers.

    This is good news to hear. I am surprised the liberal DC Council didn't vote in favor of letting homeless people from other States live in DC shelters.

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