Here is a brief recap of the June 27 ANC 6B Hill East Task Force meeting. I actually had to leave the meeting early to take my wife to the hospital, where my son, Cole, was born on Fri., June 28. A big thanks to my Hill East colleague, Commissioner Francis Campbell, for facilitating the rest of the meeting. If you attended the meeting, please post your comments below (particularly on the last half of the meeting!).
Around 30 attendees participated in the June 27 Hill East Task Force meeting to discuss the future of the Family Shelter at the former DC General Hospital complex. David Berns, Director of the Department of Human Services, and BB Otero, Deputy Mayor for Health & Human Services, were invited to provide an update on the shelter and the city’s future plans for the site. Here are the highlights:
- I welcomed attendees and DHS Director David Berns. He noted ANC 6B’s recent letter (pdf) in support of the Donatelli/Blue Skye proposal to develop phase I of the Hill East development. The letter urged Mayor Gray and the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development to come up with a plan to close the temporary shelter at DC General. Due to a last-minute scheduling conflict, Deputy Mayor Otero was unable to attend the meeting.
- Director Berns introduced himself and outlined the city’s plans to move homeless residents from shelter to housing. The city’s goal, according to Berns, is to move from a shelter drive approach to keeping families within their communities. View the DHS handout (pdf).
- Berns talked about the importance of using Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) assessment to identify families at risk of homelessness and to target resources to those families to help them stay housed. The goal is to reduce the need for emergency shelter units at sites such as DC General.
- Berns stated the DHS goal of reducing shelter capacity at DC General from its current level of 271 units to no more than 153 units in FY14 and no more than 100 units by the end of FY15.
- It costs the city $50,000/year to house one family in DC General. Berns stated that DHS has no desire to put more money into the deteriorating DC General complex and that the goal is to eventually close the antiquated facility.
- I asked Director Berns for clarification on how many families (or units) can currently be housed at DC General. Berns responded that complex houses 271 units, with 18 additional units available for overflow during hypothermia season. One unit can have up to 6-7 people (large families).
- When asked if the city or DHS has considered identifying a closing date for DC General, Berns responded that the other locations would have to be identified and funded prior to such a decision. This funding would have to be in DC’s capital budget moving forward. It was not fully funded in the FY14 budget request. If DHS can meet reduction target in number of families housed at DC General by FY15, Berns said it would be easier to request capital funding for smaller shelter location(s) to house roughly 100 families. He reiterated that the city’s goal is to move away from a shelter driven policy towards policy that provides resources to prevent families from needing emergency shelter.
- I left the meeting at the beginning of the audience Q&A.
Again, please post any comments/reaction below.
Thank you for sharing these thought-provoking notes. Many people I work with live on the hill and volunteer at DC General. Is anyone concerned where these families are going to live since it is clear that NIMBYism seems to be rampant? Also, the same attitude from some folks in the neighborhood and DHS not wanting to spend any more resources on the shelter at DC General means that the many hundreds of children there now do not have adequate classroom space for summer programs or even a safe playground outside. I have trouble believing anyone wants children to suffer in this way, but that is the net result of this attitude. Wanting the shelter to go away by x date will require more city investments in reducing family homelessness that past Mayors or City Councilmembers have not yet been willing to invest.
Seems like DC General isn’t going anywhere.