Housing Complex

Program to House Homeless Families Will Near, But Not Quite Hit, Its Goal

There are still more than 240 homeless families being sheltered by the city at D.C. motels.

There are still more than 240 homeless families being sheltered by the city at D.C. motels.

In March, Mayor Vince Gray announced a bold initiative to address the city's mounting homelessness crisis: The District would vastly speed up its process of moving families out of shelter and into apartments by locating 500 apartments for the city's homeless families within 100 days.

The 100th day is this Friday. And according to Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services B.B. Otero, the city will come very close to meeting its goal, if not quite reaching it.

The city and homeless families have located 532 units since the initiative began, Otero told reporters in her office at the Wilson Building this afternoon, but 73 did not meet the city's requirements. That leaves 459 eligible units, or about 92 percent of the target. "I've been out of school for a while, but I believe that's close to an A," she said.

But the city hasn't moved nearly that many families from shelter into housing. As of July 3, 187 families had been moved into housing since the start of the program. Otero is confident that number will hit 200 by the time the 100 days run out on Friday.

There's some confusion about exactly what the initiative's goal was. Otero insists it was simply to locate the housing units, and the initial announcement of the program said the same. But Gray seemed to have a different understanding. In a May 23 letter to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, Gray wrote, "Our goal is to help 500 families exit shelter by July 11," but noted that "we are currently on a trajectory which would fall well short of meeting our goal to exit 500 families by July 11."

There are still 486 families being sheltered by the city as of July 3: 244 at the D.C. General shelter, and 242 at the motels used as overflow while D.C. General's been at capacity. Otero says that if the city continues housing those families at the current pace, by the time winter begins and the city is again obligated to house families in need—a legal requirement when temperatures drop below freezing—the motels will be empty and there will be about 30 rooms available at D.C. General. Of course, if the number of families seeking shelter this winter is anything like the number last winter, 30 rooms won't be nearly enough to hold them all.

But Otero hopes that the extensive landlord outreach through the 100-day initiative will provide momentum that will allow the city to house increasing numbers of families. Deborah Carroll, recently appointed interim director of the Department of Human Services following the departure of David Berns, added, "The goal is to be leaner, meaner, and get families in more quickly."

If the city wants to avoid the glut of homeless families that overwhelmed the shelter city last winter, it'll have to.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Roscoe’s Wetsuit

    Wow, another goal set by the Gray Administration that was both unclear in scope and totally missed. At least One City is consistent.

    When does this mess end again? Nice job, Vince!

  • Amber

    Kind of a misleading headline, no? I've been out of school for a while myself, but my math shows they met 37% of their goal to house 500 families. That's a pretty solid F. (They engage in revisionist history all they like, but the critical goal has to be placing families not finding units or they will have a severe shelter shortage next winter, maybe with a bunch of empty apartments.)

  • http://povertyandpolicy.wordpress.com Kathryn Baer

    The goal wasn't ambiguous. Otero is merely trying to make lemonade out of a lemon.

  • Chris

    I have a unit that I considered renting for this program - until I attended the briefing. First of all, they want to have these families sign a lease for one year, but only guarantee to pay their rent for 4 months at a time. The families must re-certify their eligibility with the District, which they could be denied and on the hook for the remaining rent on the lease. There were a lot of promises made in the meeting, but none of them were in writing. I understand the reasoning for making families recertify, but I think they should put them on a month-to-month lease, contingent on their certification status with the District, because if they are not re-certified and are not paying rent, the eviction process is hell and could keep them in your unit for a year or more, if they know how to work the system. In other words, I didn't stay for the full meeting. My response was a Hell and a No.

    I would love to rent my unit to someone in need, but it has to be under solid payment terms and I'd need to know that my unit will not be trashed - neither of which the District can ever guarantee.