The Districts Dime

The Best Way to Serve Vulnerable Homeless Families: Get Them Out of Shelter!

September 19th, 2014 | by Kate Coventry

Some families become homeless simply because they earn too little, while others lose their homes after a short-term setback such as a serious illness. But a small subset of homeless families – like Relisha Rudd’s — face deep and long-term challenges such as addiction, mental illness, or chronic physical health problems. Without intensive help, these families often cycle in and out homelessness, and their children may end up in foster care.

DCFPI will highlight three strategies

Photo by: Johnathan Comer. Available here.

Photo by: Johnathan Comer. Available here.

to help vulnerable homeless families when we testify before the DC Council today on the report on the abduction of Relisha Rudd.

  • Move families out of shelter: Stable housing with wraparound case management is a proven way to help families overcome personal challenges.
  • Hire more social workers for DC General: This will help identify early the families who need most help.
  • Coordinate care: Many families are served by multiple assistance programs that are not always well coordinated. 

The District has struggled to move vulnerable families out of shelter, even though there is a program to do just that — permanent supportive housing (PSH). Research finds, not surprisingly, that parent and child well-being decline while a family is in shelter. This year’s budget included funding for PSH, but it took the District nearly eight months to move any families out of shelter into it. The budget for next year once again includes funding for PSH. The District government needs to address any administrative problems with PSH so that eligible families can take advantage of this program when needed, rather than languishing in shelter. 

A second important goal is to quickly fill newly budgeted staff positions at the DC General Shelter. These staff, added to the fiscal year 2015 budget, will provide case management to children living at DC General. The best approach would be to fill these positions with licensed social workers, who have more experience and education than the typical case manager. 

Finally, there is no process for how to coordinate the services a family is already receiving when they enter shelter. The report on Relisha Rudd wisely recommends creating a cross-agency working group to ensure that the staff from all programs helping a given family can work together. For the coming winter, a temporary procedure is needed to ensure that families currently in the shelter don’t fall through the cracks. 

By taking these steps, the District can ensure that the most vulnerable families receive the services they need to exit homelessness and tackle their other challenges. 

To read the entire testimony, click here.

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New Census Data Reveals a Big Jump in Poverty Since 2007

September 18th, 2014 | by Jenny Reed

What appears to be a strong recovery in the District from the recession is masking a very troubling trend: a growing number of DC residents and families are living below the poverty line. The number of residents in poverty is now 25 percent higher than in 2007, before the start of the recession, according to newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The majority of the increase is from residents falling into deep poverty—or living on less than $12,000 a year for a family of four. 9-18-14-CPS-blog-f1

In the midst of rising poverty, the data also show that the income for the typical DC household has grown by $6,500. This highlights that many DC households are being left out of a growing economy and that many may be falling further behind. 

Some 115,550 residents — or 18.9 percent of the DC population — lived below the poverty line in 2013, or on less than $24,000 a year for a family of four. This is a 25 percent increase in the number of people in poverty since 2007.  

Much of the rise in poverty is a direct result of an increase in deep poverty.  One in ten residents in DC lived below half the poverty line in 2013, or on less than $12,000 a year. The increase in people living in deep poverty accounts for more than two-thirds of the increase in people living in poverty. (See Figure 1.) 

The income of the typical DC household was $65,600 in 2013, an increase of 11 percent from 2007 after adjusting for inflation. Unfortunately, this increase has not been shared broadly. Since 2007, only incomes for White residents have grown. In 2013, White, non-Hispanic households had a median income of $112,230, an increase of $8,230 since 2007. Black residents had a median income of $39,700 and Latino residents had a median income of $52,200 in 2013, neither of which has grown since 2007. 

Stay tuned to the District’s Dime for more in-depth analysis of the changes in poverty and income since 2007.

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Unlocking Opportunities: A Forum on Helping DC’s Low-Income Students Succeed

September 17th, 2014 | by DCFPI


Thursday, October 9, 2014


(Lunch Following the Presentation)


John A. Wilson Building

1350 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W. 

Room 120

Washington, DC 20002

Poverty makes it harder for children to succeed in school. Fortunately there are services that schools can deliver, beyond classroom instruction, to alleviate the effects of poverty. 

Join the DC Fiscal Policy Institute to learn about how DC can improve parent engagement, supports for homeless students, mental health, expanded learning, and wraparound services to help DC’s most vulnerable students succeed. 

 Featured speakers: 

  • Rebecca Brink, Children’s Law Center
  • Jamila Larson, Homeless Children’s Playtime Project
  • Maggie Riden, DC Alliance of Youth Advocates
  • Soumya Bhat, DC Fiscal Policy Institute
  • Jenny Reed, DC Fiscal Policy Institute


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Despite Slight Increase in Number of Uninsured, District Continues to Have High Rates of Health Coverage

September 16th, 2014 | by Wes Rivers

DC residents are more likely to have health insurance than in almost any other part of the nation, and the District is doing especially well providing insurance to children, according to the newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Still, some 42,000 residents were 9-17-14-CPS-ACS-blog-f1uninsured in 2013, an increase of 5,000 from the previous year. As implementation of the Affordable Care Act continues, it will be important for DC to continue to make progress toward covering all residents. 

Some 595,000 District residents, or 93 percent, had access the health insurance in 2013, according to data released today from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The rate of health coverage puts DC second only to Massachusetts in coverage. The high rate of coverage is a direct result of the District’s expansion of Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and above-average rates of employer-provided insurance.    

The District has done especially well covering children, with nearly 98 percent of kids covered through some kind of insurance –  half of whom are on Medicaid.  

Despite this progress, the number of residents without health insurance rose to 42,000 in 2013, up from 37,000 in the prior year. It is unclear at this point what is driving the increase. Importantly, the District is still in the midst of implementing the Affordable Care Act and is likely to see a reduction in the number of people without insurance going forward. Most notably, the District implemented DC Health Link – the online marketplace that increases access to affordable health plans – in 2014. Thanks to assertive outreach, we already know that 51,000 people have used DC Health Link to enroll in Medicaid or a private health plan.  

Later this week, the Census Bureau will release more data on health insurance coverage, as well as on incomes and poverty among DC residents. Look for more information in Thursday’s District’s Dime. Stay tuned!

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Welcome to DCFPI’s Fall Interns!

September 15th, 2014 | by Jenny Reed

I am excited to welcome Marco Guzman and Sean Reilly Wood to DCFPI as interns for the fall.  Marco and Sean will be spending their time this fall analyzing unemployment, wage, and health disparities in DC, as well as getting to know the ins and outs of DC government.  We look forward to having them on board!9-15-14-intern-f1

Marco Guzman graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Human Communication. He lives in DC and is in the second year of a Masters of Public Policy program at George Mason University. There, he is focusing on U.S. economic policy and also enjoys following fiscal and housing policy issues. Marco recently interned on Capitol Hill for Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter.

9-15-14-intern-f2Sean Reilly Wood hails from the scenic mountain valley of Brunswick, Maryland. A senior at American University, Sean is majoring in Economics with minors in Sociology and Arabic Language. Previously, he worked for UNITE HERE! as a research intern and Public Citizen as a communications intern. Sean has studied abroad in Irbid, Jordan where he participated in an intensive Arabic language program. Between school and interning with DCFPI, Sean finds time to support social justice student organizing on campus. 


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