A few weeks ago, Mayor Bowser and the City Council successfully passed a budget that gives a new focus to homelessness. This is great news!
But with all the positive attention, it's important to temper optimism with the weight of challenges ahead. Executive Director Alicia Horton responds below to the 2015 DC Budget with important context.
Kudos to the new administration for putting their money where their problems lie! The new DC budget has made tackling the issue of homelessness a priority. The new Administration and the City Council have made allocations that should have measurable effects on the acquisition of housing for some of our most vulnerable community members.
This is a great start and we at Thrive DC are anxious to help Mayor Bowser and other city officials accomplish our mutual goals of stabilizing individuals and families through the provision of effective services and housing.
One thing that the budget did not address was the continued need for wraparound services which emphasize a system of care framework. For services and supports to be effective they should be individualized, family driven, culturally competent, and community based.
Simply because someone has a home does not mean they are safe from homelessness. Services are needed for those that are able to access housing as well as for those that are not.
Despite the ambitious and laudable goals, the unfortunate reality is that not everyone in need will be provided the assistance they require. Vulnerable individuals and families with homes will still need support to stay housed and those without housing will still need services to help them survive and take the steps necessary to secure permanent housing.
Another concern not wholly addressed by the current plan is the development of effective strategies that address the root causes of extreme poverty and homelessness.
We need long term solutions that will slow down, if not eliminate the stream of families and individuals that will become homeless in the next few years.
The problems are stagnant wages, high unemployment, poor mental health services, domestic violence and a lack of affordable housing.
The solutions are living wages, dedicated mixed income housing, functional and enforceable domestic violence laws, as well as effective, accessible, comprehensive, and affordable mental health and substance abuse services.
These systemic solutions will require a critical focus on successful anti- poverty initiatives, profound system overhauls and honest housing equity efforts, particularly in high profile urban areas. Housing without all of the above equals failure.
In 2015, 7,300 homeless individuals were counted in the Nation’s Capitol. The 2015 DC Budget will not house them all, nor does the plan address those who will fall victim to situations of unemployment, economic insecurity, food insecurity, housing costs, illness, family tragedy, substance abuse, or domestic violence yet to come.
We are off to a great start. The Administration has a new will to solve homelessness that has not been seen here in a long time, if ever. But there is still a mountain of issues to tackle before we can claim a full victory over homelessness.
Let’s keep the pedal to the floor and our eye on the Administration so that we don't lose our momentum. The low-income and homeless clients that we serve cannot afford for us to backtrack on promises to help them reclaim their stability, dignity and futures.
Executive Director of Thrive DC