We are Nothing For Us Without Us a group of Washington, DC residents who wish to work and organize with homeless youth.
During the summer of 2013 Washington, DC Mayor Vincent C. Gray wanted to push forth Amendments to the Homeless Services Reform Act. This piece of legislation was designed to protect the rights of homeless individuals and set guidelines for organizations who serve the homeless. Different organizations came together and worked with the DC Council to change these amendments. Unfortunately this was the final result of their efforts:
1. If you refuse 2 offers of Rapid Rehousing or any other housing option (regardless of whether or not it will be appropriate for you), you will be terminated from your program. The only change to the amendments is that there needs to be "research" to determine whether or not someone's refusing of a housing option is valid. This can be problematic because current research does not take into account the location of the housing (being too far from a metro station or place where you can a grocery store, or employment) and there is no requirement to offer comprehensive services like childcare or transportation assistance. Also just to let everyone know, this law has been in the Homeless Services Reform Act since the very beginning. The only difference is that Rapid Rehousing has been given priority as "acceptable housing". This was something that many community organizations failed to mention.
2. Those who go into any program are still required to pay into an escrow account or "similar savings account". It's an account in which someone gives a part of their income each month into an account they cannot touch until they leave the program. If they refuse to put money into this account, they will not be terminated from the program, but will face "sanctions". This can include restrictions on where they can travel and being refused services. In other words if someone makes $250 a month from social Security and can't afford to give a dime to the escrow account, they will be punished. What makes matters worse is that it is up to the sole discretion of the Mayor (who recommended many of the harmful amendments in the first place) to determine what sanctions should be placed on those who can't afford to pay into the account.
3. A new amendment was added as well. It states that someone with a disability can be terminated from their Permanent Supportive Housing program if "The client has not requested a reasonable accommodation to continue the supportive housing services for disability-related reasons, or has requested a reasonable accommodation and it was denied; and No household members who have been approved as part of the household unit for purposes of the program remain in the supportive housing placement". There is also no clear language on helping anyone with a disability who is terminated to find housing that is better for them. This was not part of the Mayor's Amendments and seems to have been added by someone else working with the Council.
Now we understand why so many organizations did not want to give detailed reports of the Amendments. Two of the most dangerous amendments have still be passed, and a new one was added as well. Let's not forget that the Mayor is still in charge of creating rules to make sure these amendments will be carried out. That's why it's more important than ever to demand that the DC government listen the homeless of DC and address their needs.
Please sign the petition then go to http://ucearth.org/youthblog for more information.
In light of this we demand that you:
1. Give a detailed explanation as to why you believe that the 2013 Amendments to the Homeless Services Reform Act are beneficial to the homeless population of Washington, DC.
2. Publicly list the 2013 Amendments to the Homeless Services Reform Act on the websites of the DC Council, the Mayor of Washington, DC, and the Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH)
3. Give a copy of the 2013 Amendments to the Homeless Services Reform Act to every shelter and organization that directly serves the homeless population of Washington, DC and ensure it can be seen by everyone.
4. Publish the Interagency Council on Homelessness' (ICH) recommendations to the Mayor for Fiscal Year 2014. We know that the ICH has played a major role in the creation of these amendments and has refused our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for these recommendations
5. Call a special session to review the 2013 amendments to the Homeless Services Reform Act after all of the previous demands have been met.
We simply wish to promote transparency and embrace the democratic process especially for those who are most affected by the new amendments to the Homeless Services Reform Act: the homeless residents of Washington, DC. Please do the right thing and listen to the concerns of the residents you serve, and allow them to have an active part in the decision making process.