Residents and Activists Take the 'Housing For All' Message to the DC Council

April 7, 2011

Campaign Organizer Elizabeth Falcon testifies on behalf of the Continuum of Housing Campaign to Councilmembers Brown and Graham.

CNHED was invited to present testimony for the Continuum of Housing at a public roundtable convened by Councilmember Michael A. Brown, Chairperson of the Committee on Housing and Workforce Development.  The roundtable was held at the John A. Wilson Building in the council chambers.

Jim Knight, CNHED President and Jubilee Housing Executive Director, and Bob Pohlman, CNHED Executive Director, opened the roundtable by explaining the Continuum of Housing concept and how it is vital to the quality of life for all who live in D.C.

CNHED coordinated the bulk of the testimony presented.  Service providers gave presentations on the type of housing they provide in the continuum and residents talked about the benefits the housing and services made in their lives and the lives of their children.

The areas of the continuum covered were Transitional Housing and Supportive Housing; Affordable Rental with Resident Services; Limited Equity Co-ops and Home Ownership.

On the panel representing Transitional Housing and Supportive Housing, Polly Donaldson, CNHED board member and Executive Director, Transitional Housing Corporation, gave testimony about services which the 20 year old faith-based organization has been able to provide to over 300 families and households. THC provides housing and supportive services to the homeless.  In response to a question from Chairperson Brown, Ms. Donaldson said Transitional Housing Corporation has an 80% success rate.  The challenge is they do not have enough housing to adequately address the numbers of families and persons in need of transitional and supportive housing.

Ms.  Erika Moses, a resident of Transitional Housing Corporation’s Partner Arms II, shared her story of how the program allowed her to focus and receive support to get her life on track after losing her job and then her home.  She will soon be moving to a two bedroom apartment.  Ms. Moses will continue to get support from the Local Rent Supplement Program. “The best news,” stated Ms. Moses,   “is that I can stay in the same neighborhood that I grew up in and my daughter can continue to go to the same school.”

Ms. Erika Moses, a resident of Transitional Housing Corporation’s Partner Arms II, received much needed support after losing her job and then her home. She will soon be moving to her own two bedroom apartment through funding from the Local Rent Supplement Program.

Mr. Alfred Coleman, a resident of Freedom House, one of SOME’s transitional housing sites shared his story about the support and services provided through SOME and what a difference it made in his life.  Mr. Coleman said, “Being homeless makes it almost impossible to find your way.”

Nechama Masliansky, Senior Policy Advocate, So Others Might Eat, (SOME), proudly announced that Mr. Coleman received a job offer that day.

Mr. Reggie Walker, a resident of Copeland Manor Cooperative in Ward 7 talked about the financing and other services of the National Housing Trust.  He said they were able to get funding due to the Housing Production Trust Fund. They are hoping to re-model 15 more units but funding is not currently available.  Mr. Walker, a DC government employee said having affordable housing allowed him to have more resources for his children’s education, access to good schools and support from DC’s tuition assistance programs such as TAP.  One daughter will graduate from Trinity University in May and another daughter will graduate in two years.  He has a son in the 9th grade who is preparing to go to college as well.

Other CNHED witnesses included Mark James, Community Preservation and Development Corporation; Nancy Hooff, Somerset Development Company; Juan Pablo Vacatello, Mi Casa, Inc.; Brenda Jones, resident of Park Pleasant Coop; Shiv Newaldass, Manna, Inc. and Geneene Green, prospective homebuyer.

Rev. Jim Dickerson, Founder and Board Chair of Manna, Inc. and Elizabeth Falcon, Campaign Organizer for the Continuum of Housing Campaign, gave the final testimony by talking about the importance of the housing continuum and the need to maintain the funding levels for housing programs for the 2012 budget.  They also testified about the need to increase the level of funding from $1.33 out of every $100 in the budget to over $4 in the next 5 years.

Hearing the personal stories of how the great work of service providers is providing such dramatic impact on the lives of DC residents was such an inspiration and a reminder that we must make sure this work is not derailed by the looming budget cuts.  It was also encouraging to see that Councilmembers Brown and Graham “get it.”

Chairperson Brown was a very attentive and engaged convener.  He and Councilmember Graham encouraged participants to communicate their concerns to their colleagues.  They also shared information about their legislative efforts and their very serious concerns about the pending budget cuts to the housing and human service programs that are needed by many DC residents.

The CNHED members and their clients presented excellent testimony outlining the spectrum of services that are provided and the need for a Continuum of Housing.  The video of the Roundtable is available on demand.

We will be posting excerpts of testimony and the video here over the next few weeks.

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