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April 2, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

The persistent crisis of homelessness

HOMELESSNESS
Over the past winter, the District anticipated a rise in the number of homeless families that would be seeking shelter and laid out ambitious plans for solving the crisis. In this cover story, Washington City Paper takes an in-depth look at why this winter was still challenging for many homeless families. (WCP, 4/2)

This winter, the city saw the crisis coming. A September report commissioned by the city government anticipated a 16 percent increase in the number of families requiring shelter. The administration of then-Mayor Vince Gray had been preparing. It launched an initiative to move families more quickly out of shelter and into housing. It tried to toughen up its requirements for families to get into shelter and to stay there. Administration officials confidently predicted that things would be under control by the time winter rolled around.

Instead, the crisis has grown even worse. The September report predicted that 840 families would enter shelter this winter, up from 723 last winter. By early March, the actual number had already eclipsed the forecast, as families continued to pour into the shelter system. As of March 13, the figure stood at 904—and climbing. The city has only 369 permanent units of family shelter.

Those 904 families have entered what’s known, figuratively, as the front door to shelter, the one families pass through when they have nowhere else to go. There are things the city can do to manage the front door, but there are also factors out of its control, primarily the lack of affordable housing and of decent-paying jobs for residents without a college degree.

The bigger problem this winter, however, has been the back door. The city has fallen well short of its targets for moving families from shelter to housing. And the families who do secure housing often discover it’s not so secure after all, and find themselves at risk of slipping back through the front door into shelter again.

– As part of her newly released budget, Mayor Muriel Bowser proposed an increase to the city’s sales tax in order to fund the transformation of the District’s troubled homeless services. (WaPo, 4/2)

– On Monday, April 13, WHUT, the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project, and DC Alliance of Youth Advocates will host a screening of the documentary, Homestretch, that takes a look at youth homelessness in D.C. A panel featuring young people who have experienced homelessness themselves will follow. Click here to find out more.

PHILANTHROPY | Early this year, economist Stephen Fuller and president of the 2030 Group Bob Buchanan, issued a call for a regional economic summit for business and government leaders to discuss efforts to reinvigorate the economy. Last week, Bob Buchanan stopped by to speak with WRAG member CEOs during an insightful CEO Coffee and Conversation session. Here, WRAG president Tamara Copeland shares how the call to action that originally did not include philanthropy, now has room at the table for the funding community. (WBJ, 1/15 and Daily, 4/2)

HEALTH/YOUTH | The Northern Virginia Health Foundation‘s blog features a new post by Kimberly Durand of the Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth, and Families (APCYF) where she takes a closer look at the health of Arlington youth on the heels of APCYF’s release of its fourth Community Report Card. (NVHF, 3/30)

FOOD | Congratulations to AARP Foundation for receiving a $3 million dollar grant to help SNAP recipients buy more fresh fruits and vegetables in farmers markets and grocery stores in Mississippi and Tennessee. Across the country, including right here in the region, innovative programs like these are improving food security, health, and the local economy. They’re part of a broader trend to change the way we eat for the better. (AARP, 4/2)

Related: Last week, WRAG Board member Eric Kessler of the New Venture Fund and Arabella Advisors, joined a distinguished list of chefs, artists, entrepreneurs, and politicians, at Washington Post Live’s signature event Changing the Menu. Follow this link to hear from Eric, Steve Case, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and others on the trends shaping our food system and the policy changes we need to support improved nutrition, health and wellness for all.

COMMUNITY/EDUCATION | Education blogger, editor of Greater Greater Education, and trustee of the Omega Foundation, Natalie Wexler, has a new blog focused on public education in the District. Be sure to check out DC Eduphile.

WORKFORCE
Making a Good Jobs Program Even Better: How to Strengthen DC’s Project Empowerment (DCFPI, 4/1)

– In a two-part series, NPR dives into the introduction of Walmart stores to urban areas like D.C, and what the openings have meant for workers and nearby residents. You can read or listen to part 1 here, and part 2 here. (NPR, 4/1 and 4/2)

DISTRICT | Bowser names cabinet member to focus on development in overlooked communities (WBJ, 4/1)


If you want to be a more creative person, just book a flight.

– Ciara

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