The D.C. Interagency Council on Homelessness this week approved its winter plan to shelter homeless residents during the cold months to come as Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a year-round expansion of services to families.
According to washingtoncitypaper.com, this year’s plan is a huge step forward for the District, in terms of data collection and preparation for the people expected to seek shelter.
It’s a hopeful sign that D.C. won’t repeat the mistakes of last year—or the year before that.
D.C. is beginning to get a better grasp on how to provide adequate shelter both year-round and during the winter, writes washingtoncitypaper.com. This doesn’t mean the number of homeless veterans in D.C. will reach zero, but the District is working on getting an adequate number of year-round shelter beds for veterans and expediting the way these men, women, and families are assessed and connected with permanent housing.
Part of the issue is data collection.
The Interagency Council on Homelessness Executive Director Kristy Greenwalt said, “With everything in this process, we’ve been really using our data to drive how we’re proceeding.”
Kurt Runge of Miriam’s Kitchen, one of the leading partners in the government-nonprofit Veterans NOW! coalition, says the resources are there to reach the goal. “This is the one area on the federal side [where] the funding has been there,” he says.
In the past, the funding wasn’t there. According to Greenwalt, in the past there haven’t been those housing resources.
The coordinated entry process allows the District and its partners—from agencies like the D.C. Department of Human Services to nonprofits like the Community Partnership to End Homelessness—to enter client information into a central, by-name registry so veterans can be assessed and matched with housing resources.
On average, about 55 veterans enter the system per month, writes washingtoncitypaper.com. Meetings are held twice a week to review the list of veterans still in need of housing and match them to housing, and a strategy team meets every other week.
“In the past, there was no systematic approach,” says Greenwalt. “We’re in a very different place now, so we can actually track what’s happening and why.”
“It sounds like a simple thing,” says Runge of the entry process, “but we didn’t really have it before.”
Veterans need to be assessed before they can be connected with housing.
As of July 28, 75 of the 328 veterans in low-barrier shelters and transitional housing were without assessment. One of the difficulties is pinning down a veteran staying in low-barrier shelter, which is open only from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
After assessment, D.C. has been working to expedite the process of identifying and matching veterans with housing. The city aims to exit 68 veterans from shelter per month, a goal that it at-times exceeded during the spring and early summer: 110 in April, 67 in May, and 76 in June, 52 in July.
“In an expensive and tight housing market like the District, if they’re not receiving a lot of hands-on assistance to find the unit and make it through the process—particularly given that some of our clients may have credit and criminal issues in their background—they may need some more assistance navigating the market,” Greenwalt says.
In September, the mayor of Washington D.C., Muriel Bowser, announced a set of legislative and administrative measures to improve D.C.’s homelessness crisis response system for families and called on residents to sign a pledge to end homelessness.
“Far too many men, women and children live on our streets and in our shelters,” said Mayor Bowser. “Ending homelessness in the District has to be a priority for all of us. We have a plan to make homelessness, rare, brief and non-recurring by 2020, and it’s on all of us to make that goal a reality. That’s why today, I’m asking residents to sign a pledge and commit to ending homelessness in the District.”
That pledge can be found here: mayor.dc.gov/homewarddc.