The Budget Priority List: Future Michigan State Freshman and DC family shelter resident Chris Feaster

District Dime readers, we are in the final days before the DC Council votes on the fiscal year 2013 budget. At DCFPI, we often say that a budget is not simply a collection of numbers; it is a statement of our priorities as a city.

 Chris Feaster is one of those priorities. Since last year, Chris and his mom have been living at DC General family shelter. In a few months, Chris will move out of DC General, not because the District has an apartment for him to live in but because he will be a freshman at Michigan State University.

 You’ve heard plenty from us this budget season. Take a few minutes to hear Chris:

Chris is grateful for having a roof over his head, but it certainly hasn’t been easy to study, fill out college applications, and stay positive while living in DC’s packed-to-capacity family shelter. Somehow Chris stayed on task, looked beyond the tough circumstances in the short term and envisioned a better future ahead.

He asks the DC Council to do the same for next year’s budget. By putting $6 million toward the local rent supplement program and $7 million into homeless services we can move families like Chris’s family forward:

  • $7 million toward homeless services fills a gap in human services budget that, if not filled, would lead to serious cuts in services including shutting down 750 shelter beds.
  •  $4 million to tenant-based rent supplement will serve 250 homeless families and $2 million to project-based rent supplement will create 200 permanent supportive housing units.
  • If the DC Council devotes $4 million to local rent supplement in the FY13 budget (not just the wish list) to serve 250 homeless families, the Department of Human Services believes it will be able to start placing families into housing immediately. This will create enough space this summer to stop using motels and start sheltering families with no safe place to sleep.

But if the DC Council funds neither:

  • Shelters will close: DHS says without this funding, they’ll have to close shelters, amounting to half the beds for single men and women next spring. Food, transportation, job training, outreach and other supportive services will be cut.
  • No families will get into shelter except when it is below 32 degrees. More families will be referred for neglect investigations because of concerns that their children are at grave risk staying in cars, parks, or other unsafe settings.
  • There will be little movement out of emergency shelters. DC will have to depend even more on expensive motels next winter.