Council Supports Ending Chronic Homelessness

April 9, 2014

Chronic homelessness continues to be a critical moral and social problem, one that is costly in terms of dollars and human suffering. But it is a solvable problem….

It is the sense of the Council that: The District is committed to ending chronic homelessness by no later than 2020. To achieve this goal, the District’s [Interagency Council on Homelessness] ICH must coordinate the investment  of sufficient resources to plan and create the 2,679 permanent supportive housing units needed to end chronic homelessness by no later than 2020.

These quotes come from a resolution passed unanimously by the DC Council yesterday committing to ending chronic homelessness by 2020. This resolution does not require them to take any future steps or commit any funding, but it does tell us that the DC Council supports ending chronic homelessness in DC.  We thank all the Councilmembers who stood together calling for an end to chronic homelessness. As the they consider the budget over the next few months, we need to make sure they keep their commitment and fund the programs that will make chronic homelessness history.

CNHED has been very active in creating the Interagency Council on Homelessness’s plan to end chronic homelessness, and advocated that the Mayor and Council fully fund the plan in this year’s budget. The Mayor’s budget included an increase of over $4 million to serve individual veterans who are experiencing chronic homelessness. This is a good start, but does not fully meet the funding needed in the first year of the plan, and will not serve any chronically homeless families who are currently stuck in DC’s family shelter system. Additional funds will be needed this year, and the District needs to fund the programs according to the plan each year. We will be working with the Council to make sure that the ICH plan is funded this year and in future years, and are counting on you to work with us.

DC Organizations Support $100 Million for the Trust Fund

March 26, 2014

This week we delivered a letter to Mayor Gray signed by 60 organizations that support committing $100 million to the Housing Production Trust Fund this year, and every year. See the letter and the organizations that support the Housing Production Trust Fund below. 

Dear Mayor Gray,

The undersigned organizations urge your support of the Housing Production Trust Fund, with annual funding of at least $100 million to achieve the District’s housing goals.

The Housing Production Trust Fund is crucial to the diversity and economic prosperity of the residents of Washington, DC. Thousands of District residents have been impacted by the rapidly increasing cost of housing. These rising costs are leading workers to pay more than half their income in rent, forcing many to live doubled up or in low-quality apartments, and contributing to the high rates of homelessness experienced by families in the District. The Housing Production Trust Fund is an essential tool needed to address these issues. The Trust Fund has already produced and preserved over 7,500 units of housing serving 15,000 people with a diversity of housing needs.

With your leadership, the Trust Fund received more than $100 million in Fiscal Year 2014. This level of funding is needed over the long term. With consistent, robust funding the Trust Fund can play a crucial role in ending chronic homelessness, making and keeping rents affordable, providing opportunities for homeownership, and allowing tenants to execute their right to purchase. The Trust Fund is also a cornerstone of the District’s goal of producing and preserving 10,000 new affordable units and preserving 8,000 currently subsidized units. It’s time to commit to a multiyear funding plan, with at least $100 million available in the Housing Production Trust Fund each year.

We very much appreciate the proposal you have made in collaboration with DC Council leaders to devote 50 percent of future unrestricted surpluses to the Trust Fund. But as you know, it may be several years before this takes effect. In the meantime, as you prepare the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, please invest at least $50 million of one-time money into the Housing Production Trust Fund to maintain $100 million of funding in the short term. We also ask that you consider using other funding sources to ensure that there is at least $100 million of funding each year for the Trust Fund to achieve the District’s housing goals.

Sincerely,

All Souls Church
Chesapeake Sustainable Business Council
City First Enterprises
Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development
Coalition for the Homeless
Cornerstone, Inc.
CSH
D.C. Catholic Conference
DC Fiscal Policy Institute
DC Jobs with Justice
DC LISC
Embassy Towers Tenants Association
First Trinity Lutheran Church
Foundry United Methodist Church
Good Faith Communities Coalition
Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation
Homeless Children’s Playtime Project
Hope Cooperative
Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers
Jews United for Justice
Jubilee Housing
Kenyon House Family Tenants Association
Klein Hornig LLP
Latino Economic Development Center
Manna, Inc.
Mercy Loan Fund
Mi Casa Inc.
Miriam’s Kitchen
National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations
New Beginnings Tenants Association
Open Arms Housing, Inc.
Organizing Neighborhood Equity
Pathways to Housing DC
Phoenix Tenants Association
Positive Force DC
Rinker and Associates
Sarah’s Circle
Somerset Development Company
Southwest Neighborhood Assembly
The Community Builders, Inc.
The Van Buren Tenants Association
The Way Home Campaign
Transitional Housing Corporation
United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 400
United Planning Organization
University Legal Services
WACIF
Washington Business group
We Are Family DC
1309 Clifton St NW Tenants Association
1315 Clifton ST NW Tenants Association
1370-72 Fort Stevens Dr. NW Tenants Association
1425 T St NW Co-op
1919 Calvert Street Tenant Association
3115 Mt. Pleasant ST NW Tenants Association
525 Park Road Tenants Association
716 Madison Family Tenants Association
720 Madison Family Tenants Association
7611&7701 Georgia Ave NW Tenants Association

Housing for All Rap (Youth Third Place)

March 11, 2014

Gabriel Merino

Our third place youth winner, Gabriel Merino, is just 11 years old. He and his family found a home they could afford with the help of Jubilee Housing, and his entry expresses how thankful he is for affordable housing.

HOUSING FOR ALL RAP

Yeah housing!

This is how we are going to do it.

I am being raised in affordable housing.

It’s live browsing.

So please everybody cheer,

There is no such thing as fear

Because we have affordable housing.

So let’s just be here.

Let’s be so thankful that we have affordable housing.

Can you see this is so wonderful?

So let’s be cheerful.

This is my home,

So let’s treat it like a roam.

Out with the Old (Youth Second Place)

March 6, 2014

Our second place youth winner, Jabari Jefferson, is Senior at Phelps ACE High School. His piece describes his fears about moving from his beloved old neighborhood to historic Anacostia, and how he came to love his new, big yellow house.

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW

Housing For All Rally 2014 106b Writing Winners

Moving from my old home to a new area was a major culture shock for me. My parents explained to me that it was a way to start a new, but I wasn’t finished with the old. All my memories lied in the pavement of the very neighborhood that taught me everything I know. Why is it that the neighborhood that influences us most, influence us in a way not easily quantified?  Getting use to a new environment is hard, but with time comes acceptance. Little did I know that the change can help my understanding of life and the past. This I believe.

My old neighborhood was very dear to me. It was convenient, quiet and peaceful environment; with everything I

could possibly need. A reliable grocery store was around the corner, three busses that stopped right in front of my house (that traveled through The District) and a library resided two blocks away from me. My neighbors were tight knit and engaging. Although I was enjoying my neighborhood, my parents had another plan in mind. They wanted to relocate into The Historic District of Anacostia which they saw mass potential in. I was not sure if I was going to like my new neighborhood. Leaving an old lifestyle cuts deep and I know its the type of wound that never heals.

When I first laid eyes on the big, bright yellow and abandoned house, I excoriated all my interest of ever wanting to live there. It was a 1903 Queen Anne styled house that needed a lot of work and love. The first month there was cantankerous and I was homesick. When my parents asked if I liked it, I would feign to be excited. The nearest store was four blocks away, the bus stop was six blocks away and the nearest library was a mile away. I had a lot to adjust to.

On my way towards the bus stop, I noticed a strange old house that rested on a nearby hill. I read the sign that was sealed on its gate and it read, “Welcome to The Home of Frederick Douglas.” I was astonished that I lived close to the home of a famous African American abolitionist. Not only did Frederick Douglass live here, but other historic figures and landmarks like, The Anacostia River and The Big Chair, the world’s largest chair, reside in my neighborhood; which have shaped The District of Columbia. Although, my old neighborhood was a haven to me, my new neighborhood holds historic significance, with qualities of security, reliability and warmth.

Despite what I thought appealed to me at first, I soon realized the interesting things of my new neighborhood. I may not have the conveniences I use to have, but the history in more important to me. So many residents have tales and have experienced things from the early 1900s. I recently visited my old neighborhood a year later realizing that it wasn’t as exciting as it was a year ago when I lived there. That big yellow house has truly grown on me and has really become my home. I learned the importance and history of life rather than its luxuries.

A Home for Body and Heart (Adult Third Place)

March 3, 2014

Samar Chatterjee is our third place adult winner for the Home is Where the Heart is writing competition. In his piece, he explains that a home provides shelter to protect both the body and the heart from suffering and calls on America to recognize the right of everyone to have a home.

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

All human beings have a HEART that lives in his BODY. Housing For All Rally 2014 050

Though the heart lives in the body; but the heart is not at all happy if its body is always exposed to the vagaries of the nature around us. By nature, we mean our planet earth that is always surrounded by the changing weather patterns like extreme cold, extreme heat, extreme wind, rain, snow, extreme light, extreme darkness, earthquakes and other calamities inflicted on us by nature.

These natural vagaries inflict serious pain and suffering to our bodies that the heart is compelled to suffer. To avoid these cruel torture of nature, our hearts seek a HOME that will provide the necessary shelter against these extreme conditions that inflict pain and suffering to our BODY and hence to our HEART. Thus, our body and heart together work very very hard to develop a suitable permanent shelter to live in, which we humans like to call our HOME.

Thus, it is this Home where the Heart always is. It is the heart that tells us what kind of a home we want to live in, what do we want in the home, and who do we want in our home. It is the heart that propels us to build and equip our home, so that it feels the peace and serenity it rightly deserves. Hence, it is the home where the heart is, and will always want to be.

Clearly, if America seeks to be a truly democratic nation, we should honestly proclaim the constitutional right of every human being to have a home where his heart is. It should be our solemn duty to provide a home for every human heart to live freely on this land of the brave and free, of course without any more wars. I sincerely hope that you will all agree with me.

God Bless America!

Video: Stories from the Housing for All Rally

February 28, 2014

At the Housing for All NOW Rally, we asked DC residents to tell us their personal stories of housing struggles or affordable housing successes. Others told us why they needed affordable housing now. Check out their stories and answers in this video:

Home is Love (Adult Second Place)

February 27, 2014

Housing For All Rally 2014 106b Writing Winners

Our second place adult winner for the Home is Where the Heart is writing competition, Judith Overbey tells us that home is more than just where the heart is:

HOME IS LOVE

To me, home is where you find love.  It’s where you go whenever you need to know that you are safe.  It is family, it is warmth in the winter and comfort in the summer. It is holidays full of laughter and stories about the past and loved ones gone on.

Home is not just the building but all that it holds. It’s brick and mortar, siding, carpet and tile.  It’s community, yards where children play, sidewalks where people stop to say hello. Home is important to me because it holds all that I hold dear, my family, my son, daughter, daughter-in-law and baby grandson.  Together we are happy, we feel safe and we know that there is hope for the future.  Home is hope for better tomorrows and a chance to share dreams.  Housing should be a right not a privilege and should be available to everyone.

Home is love.

Coming Home (Adult First Place)

February 19, 2014

Our 2014 writing competition asked DC residents what “Home is Where the Heart Is” means to them. Our adult first place winner, Elsie Collins, describes how finding a communal home at Calvary Women’s Services allowed her to take the risk of coming home to DC …

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

A home should radiate security, warmth, love, and be welcoming.  It should have the aesthetics of a Picasso, the music and song of

Josh Brolin.  It should represent the competitive spirit of its inhabitants.  A home’s construction and foundation should depict the strength and courage it took to plan and save for its creation.

A home swaths you in its tenderness as found within its cherished occupants.  It is not the cost of the home that matters.  It is not the good judgment and sacrifice of its residents; it takes to make a lifetime purchase of such meaningful consequence.

A home grounds us!  It is what we yearn for.  It protects us; it gives us privacy and confidentiality while granting us a purpose in life.  It allows us to grow with it.  We become part of a village – a community.  We are the home – the home is us!

Housing For All Rally 2014 110

Where I live today is a transitional housing program. It is, also, communal living.  Its name is Calvary Women’s Services.  I receive meals, showers, social services, job assistance, counseling, life skills programs and support groups.  Although part of a community, it represents family to me, as it is to many homeless women.  I learn crafts, nutrition and food, computer skills, money smart application, and more.

I was linked to outside service providers to further my individual needs.  I have learned meditation through yoga methods.  Controlling one’s breathing is both, artful and significant in reducing stress.  Education and self-development does not stop with age.  Where there is a need, there is love, bestowed from the heart by trained staff and volunteers.  Home is a combination of the above.  A home is what you make it!  We enjoy ours!  I am pleased to share it with you today.

Washington, D.C. stands as my place of birth, but is, also, the nation’s Capital city.  There is much to love about my home town.  Challenging as politics are, there is no other global entity to compare with its dynasty of power.  Washington, D. C. is a hub of world negotiations.  It is, also, home to me!

I claim my home and federal city as one of a kind.  I say it best:  I am grateful to the fathers and forefathers; the sisterhood, found at Calvary, for granting me shelter and safety of a home to return to.  I’ve been away for several years.  Housing prices, in general, have escalated beyond my limited social security retirement income.  I took a risk on returning home!  Affordable housing options are necessary to protect D.C.’s families and their relationship to home.  Today we live in a depressed housing market, where the cost-of-living is higher than most states. Calvary allows poorer citizens a vehicle, through processes, toward finding independent housing.

Thank you ALL for allowing me the spirit to continue with my dreams; the courage and determination to “Come Home!”

House of My Dreams (Youth First Place)

February 18, 2014

Alaya Barnett is the first place winner in our youth category for the Home is Where the Heart is writing competition. Her poem captures the little things that make up:

THE HOUSE OF MY DREAMS

The house of my dreams

Is not a Palace

It isn’t a Mansion

It isn’t a Castle

The house of my dreams is an affordable cozy little place

That my family can call home and be safe from harm

Housing For All Rally 2014 109

It can be a Cottage

It can be an apartment

It can be a Condo

As long as I can have a home I can afford

Weather my family grows from two to three or five

I want to have a home that’s mine

Backyard parties

Family picnics

Trimming the Christmas tree waiting for Old Saint Nick

All of these memories made

In the home that fit my needs

The House of my dreams

Voices from the Housing For All NOW Rally

February 4, 2014

“Affordable housing helps kids like me reach our goals. … I hope to go to college one day too. Without affordable housing that would not be possible for me.”
Gabriel Merino

“Permanent Supportive Housing provides stability and has saved my family from homelessness.”
Anthony Davis

“The house of my dreams is not a mansion; it’s a cozy little place where my family is safe from harm.”
Alaya Barnett

“A home grounds us. It is what we yearn for…We are the home. The home is us.”
Elsie Collins

These were some of the amazing voices we heard on Saturday, February 1, 2014, when a record crowd participated in the Housing For All NOW rally! Elected officials joined us, including Mayor Gray and Councilmembers Bonds, Bowser, Evans, Graham, and Wells, as did two agency directors.

Renise Tom Venus

Renise Walker, Tom Wilson, Venus Little

1 Housing For All Rally 2014 086 Fr John

Father John Adams

Father John Adams of SOME welcomed all the participants, noting the recent successes in gaining funding for housing and exhorting the crowd to “Remove the yoke of injustice!” Our fabulous MC of the day, Renise Walker of Jubilee Housing, kept the program moving and the energy high, getting some special help from Housing For All Resident Team Leaders Tom Wilson and Venus Little who truly revved up the event. With their incredible passion, we got on the same page with Who We Are & What We Want. Read the ask here.

 

Housing For All Rally 2014 106b Writing Winners

LaToya Thomas, Weincek + Associates, Architects + Planners, presented the winners of the writing competition: Home is Where the Heart Is. In the upcoming week, we’ll be posting the winning essays and poems; those who attended got to hear many of the winners’ heart-felt submissions first-hand.  Two of the winners this year are with Calvary Women’s Services, affiliated with the church hosting us – purely a coincidence!    [Pictured: youth category winners - Alaya Barnett, Jabari Jefferson, Gabriel Merino; adult category-Elsie Collins, Judith Overbey; not pictured -Samar Chatterjee]

And the incredible stories continued – with testimony from residents who have benefited from the housing programs we fight for.Directors Michael Kelly, Department of Housing and Community Development and Adrianne Todman, DC Housing Authority shared their support and enthusiasm, with Director Kelly saying “Like air, water and food, housing is critical! …We need permanent, sustainable funding” and Director Todman urging residents to not give up, saying “I need your voices and passion so we can house you, and your neighbors!”

Anthony DavisAnthony Davis, there with his six year old son and his son’s mother to related their multi-year struggle with homelessness and their path to THC’s Permanent Supportive Housing program where they now thrive in a ”safe, affordable and stable home”

 

 

Gabriel MerinoGabriel Merino, just 11 years old, told how the Local Rent Supplement Program helps his family and how much Jubilee Youth Services has helped him. “With it as cold as it has been lately, we are thankful that we have an apartment with heat that my mom can afford.”

 

 

Renee SumblyRenee Sumbly on behalf of Manna, Inc. gave testimony on her experience with the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP). Ms. Sumbly spoke of how important it was for her to return to the District, as a homeowner, the place where her family was from.  “If it were not for HPAP, I would not be living here.”

 

 

Margarita MenhibarMargarita Menhibar, speaking through a Spanish interpreter, relayed how the Housing Production Trust Fund and the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act are enabling her tenants association to purchase the building after suffering through horrible conditions for years. [Feb 10 they will sign the paperwork to officially purchase and become a cooperative.] “We know there will be no better owners than us!”

 

The Elected Officials – Where Do they Stand on Housing?

The Mayor answered questions collected from the audience after speaking for several minutes about affordable housing. Each of the Councilmembers present then gave short statements about affordable housing, followed by a Q& A session. Each segment was moderated expertly by MC Renise. What follows is a selection of highlights; the recording can be found here and the transcript will follow.

Mayor Gray spoke about the DC Housing Plan that commits to creating 10,000 affordable homes by 2020. To help reach that goal, he shared the agreement reached the day before with Councilmember McDuffie (who had previously introduced a bill on funding the Trust Fund) and Council Chair Mendelson that 50% of the unencumbered budget surplus would go to affordable housing via the Trust Fund.

Councilmember Evans offered that the Housing Trust Fund, is “I truly believe, the best vehicle we’ve ever had that produces affordable housing.” He cited the incredible prosperity of the City but that the prosperity comes at a cost of keeping housing affordable.

Councilmember Bonds urged advocacy for seniors, noting the older population of the city, and that rent control isn’t enough. She told the audience that “the day has come when you know your elected officials have heard you and are working with you.”

Councilmember Graham spoke of the continuum of housing, and how we have to think about extremely low-income persons and those with no income and no place to go, particularly those with families.  “You can’t raise a child in a stairwell; you can’t raise a child in a bus station …” He also noted the crucial role of activists & resident advocacy.

Councilmember Bowser spoke of the affordable housing crisis, noting progress in getting some funding but that we can’t be satisfied and need to hold officials accountable for real, intentional policies.  She saidwe talk about affordable housing, but the question is affordable for whom?”

Councilmember Wells told the crowd “These are your victories!” [related to increased attention and funding for affordable housing]. He raised the importance of how the money is spent, saying “Housing First works and it needs to be expanded.”

council members banner

Next Steps and Closing

Bower

Elizabeth Falcon, Housing For All Campaign Organizer exhorts all of us the crowd to stay involved, and invites participation in upcoming Advocacy training sessions, one series in NW and another in SE.

Finally, with urgent oratory using imagery of a raging river, David Bowers of Enterprise Community Partners (pictured right) made sure we ended the rally feeling invigorated and knowing that our efforts must continue: Our neighbors are drowning – reach your hand out to help!