Homeless Families: not a part of Mayor Gray’s “One City”
All this week, the District’s Dime blog will feature entries that highlight program areas experiencing significant cuts in Mayor Gray’s proposed budget. Stay tuned next week for a rundown of key revenue initiatives.
Mayor Gray’s FY 2012 boasts a “One City” approach, in which all District residents pull ahead and rise out of the recession together. If you are a homeless family in the District, however, you are likely to be left behind.
The annual Point-in-Time Enumeration, conducted this January, revealed that homelessness continues to rise, despite signs that the recession is over. There are 858 homeless families in the District, including more than 1,600 children. This represents an astounding 46 percent increase in homeless families since 2008, or 271 new families.
Stacked against these families is a FY 2012 budget proposal that would shrink the homeless services budget by up to a quarter and dramatically cuts other services needed to help these families back to their feet, including cash assistance and affordable housing.
Under the Mayor’s FY 2012 budget proposal, the District’s homeless services would have to shrink by as much as 25 percent, due to rising fixed costs and a loss of federal stimulus funding that was used to fund a large chunk of the homeless services budget in FY 2011. The budget partially restores the stimulus dollars, but still leaves a gap of up to $18.4 million. It is unclear how the Department of Human Services intends to handle this cut, but it is likely that a large share of shelter space beds would have to be closed between April and November (the non-hypothermia season), and that services such as meals and case management would be scaled back.
The 2012 cuts would come even though the District doesn’t have enough resources this year for homeless services. Until recently, the District has had a long-standing practice of placing into shelter all “priority-1” families — those with no safe place to stay, such as families who are sleeping on the street or fleeing domestic violence — but as of April 1, the District stopped accepting families into its largest shelter with family space, DC General. Under the Mayor’s proposal for 2012, the shelter system could see even more cuts, this time to shelter beds and services for single men and women, and even further reductions in family space.
And shelter space is not the only area of concern for District residents facing homelessness. Stay tuned tomorrow for a look at cuts in the Mayor’s budget to affordable housing . . .