Volume 13: Issue 9 March 9 - 22, 2016
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Indianapolis Leads Nation in Humane Tent City Policy, pg 5
rally packs Foundry United Methodist Church , pg 9
plan meets resistance in Ward 3, pg 4
U.S. P a Police rk Crimi Enforce n of Ho alization m in Fog elessness g Botto y m pg 7
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13-20 tents can be found at Union Station on any given day. PHOTO BY MICHAEL BRICE-SADDLER
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BELOW: Museum Square and Mt. Vernon Plaza Residents, Asian Pacific Islander Resistance members, Black Lives Matter DMV members and others protest outside of Bush Companies office in Arlington. PHOTO COURTESY OF API RESISTANCE
STREET SENSE March 9 - 22, 2016
NEWS IN BRIEF
Bonds’ Bill to Turn Vacant Homes into Affordable Housing By Ashley Hershberger Editorial Intern
Mount Vernon Residents Protest Bush Development Plans By Ashley Hershberger, Editorial Intern
On February 25, residents of the Museum Square and Mount Vernon Plaza apartment complexes gathered outside Bush Development Company headquarters to demand that the company allow them to stay in their homes. Bush Development, located in Virginia, issued a demolition notice to Museum Square tenants in 2014. At that time, Bush was under contract to accept housing vouchers, but has since refused to renew that contract. The Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) requires that before a landlord can sell a property, they must give their tenants the right to buy it. While this was offered as an option to Museum Square residents, the Bush’s asking price of $250 million or $800,000 per unit (based on projected post-development value) has left many residents feeling that they have no choice but to leave their home and community. At the event, the crowd held up signs reading #SaveMuseumSquare! and “We have rights to our homes!” Additional signs, written in Cantonese, Amharic, Mandarin, and other languages, reflected the multi-ethnic
and largely Asian and Asian-American population of Museum Square. Tenants of Mount Vernon Plaza are also being told by Bush Development that they will have to either pay much higher rents, or move out. Along with the protest, tenants of both buildings submitted a letter to Bush Development calling for the renewal of the Section 8 contract and the preservation of the Museum Square building, as well as better language services for the building’s international tenants. The letter also addressed the developer’s reluctance to let Museum Square residents know that they are not required to comply with Bush Development’s demands. “Bush Companies, stop telling and allowing your staff persons to tell tenants that they need to move when they are under no obligation to do so!” wrote Vera Watson and Quitel Andrews on behalf of the residents. “Stop spreading misinformation to tenants, creating confusion and the belief among residents that they must leave the building, neighborhood, and community they have called home for many years and decades.”
On March 1, Anita Bonds, a D.C. council member and Chairperson of the Committee on Housing and Community Development, introduced a law that would create livable and affordable housing out of properties that have been declared vacant, blighted, or condemned. This legislation, known as The Property Rehabilitation for Affordable Housing Act of 2016, will work through the DC Housing Finance Agency to provide loans to redevelop and rehabilitate these properties into livable and affordable housing options for D.C. residents. The rehabilitation program would be led and regulated by the Mayor. The rights of each intended property would be given to the Mayor, who will then transfer those rights to a resident, a non-profit organization, or a profit/nonprofit joint venture to restore the property. Each renovator will be chosen based on their commitment to housing affordability, number of people served, cost-effectiveness, and quality and efficiency of construction. The Act requires that 75% of each property’s square footage be sold or rented to low and moderate income families, with a 40 year affordability contract. “According to the DCRA [Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs], as of November 2015, there were a total of 3535 vacant buildings, 345 blighted buildings, 132 condemned properties, and 67 vacant lots of 350 square feet or larger,” said Bonds at the introduction of the Act. “This legislation will help low to moderate income residents afford to live in the District while simultaneously ridding our communities of chronically vacant and blighted buildings.” Along with Councilmember Bonds, the Act was backed by Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, David Grosso, and Elissa Silverman and co-sponsored by Chairman Phil Mendelson and Councilmember Kenyon McDuffie. The Act was referred to the Committee on Housing and Community Development with remarks by the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs.
DC General Debate Heats Up in Ward 3
D.C. Department of Human Services Director Laura Zeilinger, D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Zoning Administrator Matthew LeGrant and D.C. Department of General Services Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Kayne address Ward 3 community meeting attendees. | PHOTO BY ANDREW SIDDONS
Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh addresses her constiutents and the DC General shelter replacement plan.
By Andrew Siddons Volunteer
proach, many Ward 3 residents expressed a desire for their neighborhoods—which currently have only 15 permanent beds and 25 seasonal beds to combat hypothermia, the lowest of any area in the city—to do more to support homeless families. While angry attendees were often the most vocal, people who stood up to praise the administration’s plan often drew applause, including Sheila Walker, a professor at Johns Hopkins University studying issues related to chronic stress of children in high-poverty families. “What we know from public health research is that it does take a system-wide level change to think about moving the needle on homelessness so it doesn’t become a multigenerational dead-end,” Walker said. Still, the anger and frustration expressed by many seemed to represent the angst felt in Ward 3—the city’s wealthi-
Heated emotions about the city’s plan for homeless shelters in all eight wards were on full display Saturday, March 5, at a public meeting to discuss the plans for a family shelter with 38 units in Ward 3. Hundreds of people packed the cafeteria at Stoddert Elementary in Glover Park, a few blocks from the empty lot on Wisconsin Avenue where Mayor Muriel Bowser has proposed placing one of the new buildings meant to replace the homeless shelter at DC General. “We need to have programs that are small, that are in beautiful buildings, that are not like a falling down, re-used building that DC General is,” said Laura Zeilinger, director of the District’s Department of Human Services. Despite a plea for civility from Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, as Zeilinger and other District officials were explaining the plans for the shelter they were frequently interrupted by angry audience members. “ Yo u ’ r e t a k ing all the time,” one audience member shouted at Zeilinger. “We heard this at the last meeting,” another interjected. Most of the attendees who spoke up expressed concern that the new shelters would be poorly managed, citing widespread problems with DC General. Attendees also asked critical questions about how the city picked the site and a company to develop it, conveying skepti-
cism of the $14 million price of building out the site and the $2.1 million in annual rent that taxpayers will shoulder. “If you have mismanaged DC General and you admit to it, that it’s not managed very well, what guarantee do we have that any one of these homeless shelters spread out will be managed any better?” asked Mina Marefat, who said she was a 30-year resident of Ward 3. Others also noted that when the deal is complete, developers will be the owners of the shelter buildings, and when the 15-to-20 year leases expire the city won’t have anything to show for the money spent on this plan. “The city will have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in rent and will not have any shelters,” Anita Crabtree said. “Is homelessness going to be gone in 20 years?” Many were critical of the plan philo-
PHOTO BY ANDREW SIDDONS
est and whitest section—about welcoming homeless families into the neighborhood. Some attendees criticized the tone taken by their neighbors. “I would like to be known for living in an activist neighborhood that does things to take care of the people of the city that don’t look just like us,” Laura Pallandre said. Cheh told residents that she planned to hold Bowser to a promise that there wouldn’t be more than 38 units, and said that the council would scrutinize all of the city’s plans and contracts with developers before signing off on the deal. “If it comes before the council and it still doesn’t have the features that I want, then I will vote against it,” she said. The council will hold a hearing on the plan on March 17th and likely take votes on the plan in mid-April, according to Cheh.
“I would like to be known for living in an activist neighborhood that does things to take care of the people of the city that don’t look just like us.” - Laura Pallandre sophically, arguing that solving homelessness will require the city to invest in more permanent affordable housing. Zeilinger said that the city agrees with that, and noted that the shelters are still necessary for families “who need a place to stay tonight.” “This is part of what it means to fix a broken system,” she said. Despite disagreeing with the city’s ap-
Community members packed into Stoddert Elementary, a few blocks from the empty lot slated for construction of Ward 3’s shelter to help replace DC General. PHOTO BY ANDREW SIDDONS
STREET SENSE March 9 - 22, 2016
Homeless Campers Consider Streets Safer Than Shelter By Michael Brice-Saddler Editorial Intern A new Indianapolis ordinance requires that the city provide sufficient and adequate housing for residents of homeless encampments before an eviction can takes place, according to a press release from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP). The legislation, which was signed into law late February, aims to end the criminalization of homelessness in Indianapolis by ensuring that transitional or permanent housing be provided by the city in the event of a camp cleanup. The ordinance also requires a minimum of 15 days’ notice before forcing residents to leave their camp, and mandates the city to store the property of displaced campers for at least 60 days. “On paper, I would consider it model legislation,” said Eric. S. Tars, Senior Attorney at the NLCHP, in a phone interview “It’s got a lot of very good elements, and any city including D.C. would be very wise to look at it.” This legislation requires the city of Indianapolis to find living quarters that are both adequate and appropriate for people camping outside before they are displaced. There are a number of reasons why a shelter may not qualify as adequate and appropriate, Tars said, citing rodents, bed bugs and theft as primary issues, among others. The protections guaranteed by the new ordinance may be bypassed in the event of an emergency, according to the press release. In this case, the city would not need to wait for adequate or alternative housing before an eviction. While Indianapolis’ efforts have been viewed by many as a positive step forward, there is concern that this clause could be exploited. Tars said he will fully endorse this as model legislation as long as the emergency clause isn’t abused. “It’s better than what most cities have, and it’s a very good start, but we have to make sure that the exception doesn’t swallow the rule.” In the District, many encampment residents see shelters as so deplorable and dangerous that sleeping outside is s a positive alternative. In order to provide similar legislation in D.C., housing options and shelters must be supplemented and improved drastically, Tars said. Complaints from District residents who have lived in shelters vary greatly, ranging
from belongings being thrown away to neglectful staff members, according to a 2013 Department of General Services shelter complaint report. Others mentioned dirty bathrooms, a lack of hot water and mold. Darren Staton, who lived in shelters for two years before camping near Union Station, has experienced these conditions firsthand. Weapons, rodents, bugs and constant fighting between shelter residents were his primary reasons for leaving. Although people living in the shelters were checked by security, it was very easy to sneak in weapons such as knives and razors, Staton said. “Sometimes I couldn’t sleep because I was so concerned with what the people around me were going to do,” Staton said. “They might hurt you — you never know.” Staton has been living at the Union Station camp for over a year. Although it is still dangerous, he greatly prefers being outside compared to living in a shelter. “Because of the inadequate conditions, encampment residents should not ever be forced to go into shelters,” he said. If the weather gets bad or they are forced to leave due to an eviction, he and the other Union Station camp residents will simply relocate. “We’ll find another spot to hide,” Staton said. “I wouldn’t go to a shelter, but would definitely find another place to set up.” Uncertainty looms over Staton and the other people living at the Union Station camp. Notices were posted near the camp on February 11 stating that a cleanup would be taking place “on or after” February 25. These signs are in alignment with the District’s current encampment protocol, which was put into place in 2012. The protocol requires that a notification of pending eviction be provided at least 14 days before it takes place, and after those two weeks the city has an additional 14 days to initiate the cleanup. The current protocol is viewed as problematic by social workers and advocates for those living in encampments. They believe that when a cleanup does not happen on the scheduled date campers are lulled into a false sense of security. This could prevent them from relocating in time or moving their belongings before the eviction takes place. “It’s critical that encampment residents
ABOVE: Darren Staton stands near the Union Station encampment. BELOW: One of many tents, with an accompanying sign, at the Union Station camp.
PHOTOS BY MICHAEL BRICE- SADDLER
understand the process and timeline so that they can participate in their own lives,” testified Kate Coventry, a policy analyst with the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, during a Health and Human Oversight Hearing on February 23. Witnesses at the hearing suggested that the government work to rebuild trust with people living in camps. The relationship between these two parties has been strained, particularly due to a lack of communication and the disposal of personal belongings, testified Washington Legal Clinic Staff Attorney Ann Marie Staudenmaier. Data from the office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human services shows that between October 2015 and January 2016, 13 encampment closures have been conducted, costing the city over $170,000. According to Staudenmier, the number of camp closures has climbed to 30, and the city has only kept the belongings of residents from two of those cleanups. Personal effects can still be seen behind fenced-off former camp locations at 14th Street and Main Ave SW and the tunnel locate at 3rd and D Streets NW. Some campers even claim they witnessed life-saving items such as tents and bicycles being thrown away during a clean up,
Staudenmier said. “The city was responsible for throwing away and destroying the belongings of a large number of people who weren’t able to move their belongings from the site by the time the clean up occurred.” Street Outreach Specialist Kaitlyn DiMania from Pathways to Housing D.C. called for more explicit signs, which would show specific clean up dates and times to prevent any ambiguity. This type of encampment protocol would help build a partnership with people living there, and help to restore trust, she said. Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Brenda Donald testified that she is willing to work with the community to define standards for encampments, and will address the disposal of life-saving items. She argued that encampment closures are drawn out to provide a chance for outreach workers like DiMania to work with campers in order to find a shelter or seek short term housing. The deputy mayor may choose to suspend camp cleanups during hypothermia season—November through March—and chose not to. “Our goal is to get people housed and not have these encampments at all,” Donald said.
Families Encouraged to Contact D.C. Government Before Welfare Benefits Expire By Abby Hershberger Editorial Intern On October 1, 2016, an estimated 6,500 families in the District of Columbia will lose their monthly Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. These families’ benefits were originally set to expire October 2015, but Mayor Bowser and the D.C. Council voted to extend the program for one additional year. The new deadline is fast approaching, however, and there is concern that many families are still not prepared to give up that added income. The program was established to move heads-of-household with dependent children into the workforce through skills training and job placement, and provision of extra cash assistance during this transition. Kate Coventry, a policy analyst with the DC Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI), believes that many TANF recipients struggled with poor job development services, which have since improved. “At first, [TANF services] were very one size fits all,” she said, noting that people who couldn’t read were sometimes matched with the same programs that college graduates were put into. Recently, discussion and focus groups have emphasized that one-on-one case management is going to be crucial to helping people
find housing, employment, and stability. “Every story is different,” Coventry said. This sensitivity to different circumstances and different solutions has led DCFPI to propose a change to TANF guidelines. They believe that there are some cases in which TANF recipients should be able to receive benefits past their projected deadline. These instances, referred to as hardship extensions or exemptions, have been compiled into a bill and posted on the DCFPI website. The bill would exclude any month in which a TANF family is functioning under a hardship exemption from counting toward that family’s 60 month cut off. Examples of these exemptions include families with a child at risk of entering the foster care system or an adult that faces significant barriers to employment such as low literacy or a severe physical handicap. Coventry recently published a report called “When Every Dollar Counts,” which expands upon several studies that have proved how much even a small addition to a family’s monthly income can benefit that family’s children. This is one of the primary reasons that Coventry wants to see TANF benefits extended for families who have not yet managed to escape from poverty. “Child poverty hurts
kids, and even small amounts of income can help,” she said. Redirecting and restructuring TANF programs will take considerable effort from the city, including research and a program design. At this point in the fight to extend benefits for those who still need them, Coventry is trying to spread the word to citizens and local government. “[We’re planning] a lot of meetings,” she said. “We’re trying to meet with every council member.” In her testimony at the Fiscal Year 2015-2016 Performance Hearing, Department of Human Services (DHS) Director Laura Zeilinger outlined the DHS’s goals for 2016. One was to “support TANF participants to improve their economic stability and well-being through the creation and improvement of participant-driven service interventions, and ensure systems are in place to address the specific needs of those who will reach a time limit for cash benefits beginning October 1, 2016.” Dora Taylor, Public Information Officer at the DHS, believes that the Department of Human Services has been working diligently to preserve the well-being of TANF families who may be losing their benefits soon. She said that these families can im-
prove their situation and prepare themselves for the cut-off by actively working with their work readiness and job placement counselors. DHS is currently conducting personalized outreach in an effort to connect with TANF recipients, both to remind them of the impending financial cutoff and to help them keep moving forward in the employment process. “We just completed the first round of eight rounds of phone calls to families,” Taylor said. DHS is also hosting open houses to meet with clients and plan their next steps in education or employment. The events are being held in community and recreation centers across the city. “We’re making these as convenient as possible.” In addition to calls and community meetings, Taylor and the DHS are posting advertisements and reminders in all of their services. “This is the most aggressive ad campaign we’ve ever run,” said Taylor. “We are even considering paid advertisements.” She encourages current TANF recipients to call the Office of Work Opportunity with any questions or concerns they might have. The office can be reached at 202.698.1860.
Human Services Oversight Hearing Highlights Communication Breakdown for Benefit Recipients By Desmond Austin-Miller Editorial Intern The Committee on Health and Human Services, chaired by Councilwoman Yvette Alexander, held a March 25 public oversight hearing on the performance of the Department of Human Services (DHS) for fiscal year 2015-2016. Several members of nonprofit organizations and public witnesses who interact regularly with DHS’s two branches, the Economic Security Administration (ESA) and the Family Services Administration (FSA), provided testimony on DHS’s many accomplishments and several glaring faults over the last year. Testimony concerned issues like extending the cut-off date for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), increasing access to food stamps, and attention to the difficulties senior citizens have been having navigating ESA services. “My job is to help some of the city’s most frail and vulnerable residents,” said Randy Smith, a social worker with Iona Senior Services, “and many of them are
scared and confused by the mail they receive from ESA.” According to Smith, the ESA has been sending many customers alarming letters filled with “technical jargon” referring to termination of services because of improper documentation. However, in a number of cases, these letters have been sent even though customers had submitted in the required documentation. “When someone loses their food stamps because an application was not filed on time, they are told they are terminated for violating ‘IMA Manual Citation Part 8 Chapter 8 Section 4.1’. Madame Chair, do you know what that means? I don’t. Couldn’t [the] ESA find words in English to explain the problem?” One of Smith’s clients is Carolyn Barnes, a resident of senior housing in Ward 3 who, because of spinal surgery, requires the assistance of an aide. Barnes gave testimony confirming Smith’s asser-
tions. “The Elderly Persons with Disabilities (EPD) Waiver Program has worked very well for me and I am happy with my aide, who is here with me today,” she said, noting the relief her aide has given her at home. “However, a few months ago I was afraid I was going to lose her.” She described receiving a notice from the ESA telling her she would lose her aide because of a failure to turn in her documentation on time. Barnes and her case management agency had turned in the documentation three months in advance of the deadline. Smith explained that because of mobility issues, many of his clients and senior citizens in general find it extremely difficult to attend the required interviews that are held at the H Street Service Center. “One District resident I help is an 81year old Marine Corps veteran who lives in an apartment near Dupont Circle,” said Smith. “At the end of August , the
veteran received a notice from the ESA summoning him to the H Street Service Center on September 25th. The notice told him to call his worker if he could not get to H Street. Severe leg pain greatly limits his mobility so he could not go to H Street... However, calling a caseworker is futile,” he said, calling attention to the dead-end nature of D.C. government agency phone services. DHS Director Laura Zeilinger testified that problems with ESA’s customer service were identified when she was appointed in 2015 and that consultants have been contracted to re-design and implement a new service model by the end of the year. Zeilinger said, “We must ensure that our customers, more than 260,000 District residents, receive the effective and efficient service they need and deserve.”
STREET SENSE March 9 - 22, 2016
Sidewalk Ministry Seized as Evidence By Eric Falquero Editor-in-Chief Early on the afternoon of Thursday, March 3, Preacherman Lance could see trouble coming. The day was brisk, as the sun tried to peek out and air temperature reached 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Two National Park Service police officers sat in a squad car watching the triangle of land that is Edward R. Murrow Park, dwarfed by the neighboring World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) buildings. The officers would have seen Lance exit CVS and carry six cases of water to his coolers in the park. Now one of them appeared to be calling for backup. For close to a year, a handful of men and women have called Murrow Park home. It is against federal and District laws to pitch a tent—or any “temporary abode”—there. Yet, with no better place to go, the park’s tenants are adept at packing their belongings quickly when authorities arrive. They are sometimes given a few hours to decamp, sometimes a day’s warning, sometimes 30 minutes - it depends on the officer. Many campers moved on after park police visits became more frequent, but the Preacherman has seldom left this spot in the last 15 months. The park is his ministry: with his Bible at hand, he maintains a table of food, coolers of water, plastic bins full of clothing and a flag pole where the Stars and Stripes wave. When Preacherman Lance tells his story, he describes receiving a less than honorable discharge after three years of military service. “I served honorably, they didn’t.” After leaving the military, he worked on-and-off as a baker and sous chef for more than thirty years in the DMV area. Now Lance is focused on feeding people. He says he has always felt called to be a minister. When his car broke down next to Murrow Park 15 months ago, shortly after he lost custody of his three children, Lance took it as a sign that this is where he was meant to serve. A number
of nearby Pennsylvania Avenue restaurants regularly donate food, which he redistributes to anyone that is hungry on his highly trafficked corner. “Would you like a sandwich? No shame, these are for everyone.” He says he wants to serve the homeless and the working poor - explaining that sometimes paychecks only cover the bills. People still need to eat. Lance greets everyone that walks by him. While answering a reporter’s interview questions, he still manages an enthusiastic stream of “God bless you! Have a good day! No pain no gain! You two put a ring on it!” to greet passersby between breaths. This is not a one-way conversation. Some folks are put-off by Lance, but many smile. Others say hello. One man stops to give lance some batteries he’d promised to bring to power the ministry’s radio: permanently set to 91.9 FM, a contemporary Christian station out of Takoma Park. The Preacherman has become part of Foggy Bottom’s urban fabric, and recently, he has been documenting it. Lance and a former Murrow Park resident, Glen, have been contributing to the photography project District Displaced, which provides cameras and exhibition space for people to document their experience with housing instability. After years experiencing homelessness, Glen was placed in an apartment during the recent January blizzard. But the Preacherman continues his ministry. On March 3, Lance photographed a gathering number of park police around Murrow Park’s periphery. “They know I’m always here - they came to make sure I was okay in the freezing cold last week, make sure I had enough food,” Lance said, noting this as the fifth or sixth time he’s been arrested since he started the ministry. “This week a different crew of officers from out of state comes to arrest me.” At the time of the March 3 arrest, Lance was the only park resident present. While he was in custody, “the whole ministry”
was confiscated. “But they don’t even list half the stuff here on my tickets,” Lance said. Now the Preacherman faces federal and District charges. He hopes nothing was discarded. Lance was released without a coat that evening into light snowfall and below freezing temperatures. His jacket had been stored in his tent, which is now being held as evidence, along with everything else, until his court hearing at the end of the month. “They just laughed at me. Just laughed and laughed.” He was not without a coat for long, however. Some people saw his arrest and others noticed his absence. Three reached out through the District Displaced website to offer assistance. Lance received a coat and sleeping bag that night, though he gave the sleeping bag to his friend Victor, whose possessions were stored with the ministry for the day and are now part of the confiscated evidence. “Everyone had some stuff in there” Lance said. The refrain heard while passing Murrow Park has changed. “God bless you, say the prayers. Park Police took everything. They might have taken my ministry, but I still serve the Lord.” Regulars in the community noticed quickly. “What happened to all your stuff?” asked one woman passing by Lance’s interview with Street Sense. “Where’s your home?” asked another, not five minutes later, gesturing in reference to the missing ministry.
When Street Sense went to press, supporters had managed to keep Lance in a hotel room since his arrest. He has been working to raise $90 each day to keep the room, and intends to maintain it until his court date. Meanwhile, the ministry’s food supply is slowly bouncing back. The Preacherman doesn’t forget a face, though he admits he’s not the best with names. “Good evening, God bless you. Park Police took everything. Oh here, I’ve got a sandwich for you. Food, no water. God Bless you.” He still doesn’t understand why the observing officers let him put six new cases of water in his coolers if they knew they were going to arrest him and confiscate everything. According to Lance, Pathways to Housing outreach workers and Community Connections staff are helping him pursue his veterans benefits. He is also focused on contacting The George Washington University to pitch a permanent location for his ministry at a campus chapel. “Good evening, say the prayers. No agua. Comida, no agua. Say the prayers. Yes, go ahead and take two meals. No they took my bags, I’m sorry - but if you can carry two, take two.” He explains that the woman who just stopped for a sandwich cleans the IMF building at night. “I’m here to help the homeless and the working poor, but I can barely help myself.”
RELEASED IN LONG JOHNS AND SOCKS / ALL BELONGINGS IN EVIDENCE
BACK AT THE MINISTRY / THAT’S IT PHOTO AND TITLE BY LANCE/DISTRICT DISPLACED
PHOTO AND TITLE BY LANCE/DISTRICT DISPLACED
OFFICERS LAUGHING AT ME AFTER THEY RELEASE ME. HUMILIATED AND DEMORALIZED / SUFFERING FOR CHRIST. | PHOTO AND TITLE BY LANCE/DISTRICT DISPLACED
The Oracle that Stood By Angie Whitehurst, Vendor/Artist
He sat and spoke, watching one and all; the wanton, worried, hopeless and tired, come and go. His words and wisdom undone. Fatigued he became, of telling of what is to come and what must and needed to be done. He opined and reflected. Why did, and how could, the questers be gifted the light of insight: And then so boldly; To see and turn a blind eye. To feel only the empty numbness of nothing. To sense innately the loud strong gut-felt alarm “oh something’s wrong”, and then a gasp, a pause, a serious stare, deleted instantaneously with no memory or reaction there. No reaction there. Just nonchalance. Careless enough to let it go because time money and compassion has no green light to jump into that place. "It ain't mine." I am my own person, ever so divine." "Enough, enough," the Oracle said. The decision was made and sealed within his soul, not to sit, share or import words anymore. The new shingle read: The Stoop, a working Oracle. ONLY DOERS ALLOWED. And so it is now; The Stoop at the door Is quiet and strong. A visionary as brilliant as a moonlit star, Shining hope, faith and radiating pathways for all human life With respect, dignity and rightful survival in perpetuity for all members of the human race. The Stoop is the oracle: Who foresaw, foretold and stood tall, Taking action to help all of us shelter and save our goodness and souls. Housing, shelter and embracing warm homes with no one human left to expire without basic human rights. And in the end homeless Knots will be no more, if the Oracle Stoop has his way. Here forth, the Stoop is the Oracle Take heart and heed what he has to say. Happy birthday Stoop's!!!!! Keep stranding tall.
By Lawrence Rogers, Vendor/Artist I would like to share this passage by Charles Swindoll with all of our readers because it reveals a better way to live, for anyone. I discovered it in a recovery program. And Mr. Swindoll is absolutely right: a positive attitude is necessary to learn, grow and become more mature. “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more im-portant than facts. It is more important than the past, than education. Than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill; it will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent of how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.
Employment Barriers By Marcus Green, Vendor/Artist
My barrier has basically been not being given an opportunity to become a productive member of society. I remain clear and sober, so that I can put my best foot forward on a job. However, being unemployed is discouraging. I pray that someone will just give me opportunity to become self-sufficient and make a difference in my family’s lives, the community, etc. Staying consistent in my endeavors always is a plus, because I treat Street Sense as a job until God blesses me with another one.
The Gift of a Woman By Robert Warren, Vendor/Artist I like to give all women a gift. for no reason at all. Then again, that’s not true, I just want them to listen to you Without a word the ability to hold ones Peace for she will never know Yes I truly want to give her a gift of love or riches untold Not a rose or a balloon, with the words “Be Happy” But a gift that says, I don’t know So I hear your words. I thought you would never think of that so I listen and look into your eyes I laugh. Lucky for you, I guess life presented you with choices, and you chose Your morning glories are beautiful.
2016 has been off to a rough start with the blizzard and this crazy weather: Fall, Spring and Summer all within two months of the New Year. It’s like the planet is having mood swings, and it’s enough to give me and many others mood swings. As time races by, I want to make sure to give a huge thank you to Paul, Cindy and Cathy for the wonderful gift during the month of December 2015. To them and my other loyal customers on 14th and L Street NW: thank you for the generous support throughout m years selling Street Sense! Customers, coworkers, family and friends – join me in overlooking those mood swings. Eventually, we’ll all become more accustomed to this change in climate. We all knew it was coming. The way I have dealt with it is through prayer. Instead of listening to my hip-hop music in the morning, I’ve been listening to gospel or inspirational music. And I’ve been having better days at work and later on with family. It’s just another day. And this is my other way, to dive into climate change.
So why should the reflection be love And the crow is a symbol of death. They both eat worms. I squirm When we should love our lives Because all of us are colorful And beautiful as a peacock. Colors provoke our attention, Their range and degrees and shades See infinite, like time and space Not to mention colors are the Seasoning and spice to our eyes What a surprise That some would surmise That all of our hue as beings Should not be fully recognized with seeing. Black and white is Non-colors. Black is the absorption of all color Where white is the reflection thereof.
By Aida Basnight, Vendor/Artist
By Michael Craig, Vendor/Artist
What is Going On? By Sasha Williams, Vendor/Artist
Trouble out there. A male figure is lost. But don’t give up young girl, you hav a great woman in your life. To that young girl: Don’t take your frustration out on the wrong people. you don’t want to hurt the people that want to help you. To the woman helping her: Thanks for being a mother figure and showing com-passion. This is a handful of responsibilities and you have a lot of humility and pa-tience. A lot of people could learn from you. For both of you: Don’t ever give up on love. Don’t let the wrong people tell you what decisions to make. It's your future, don’t let people take your motivation.
BELOW: Photo essay by Vendor/Artists Ken Martin, Gwynette Smith and Sal Hicks, active members of the Street Sense photography workshop.
STREET SENSE March 9 - 22, 2016
FEATURES Cameras Needed!
By Gwynette Smith, Vendor/Artist
Washingtonians Rally for Housing By Leah DiBianco Volunteer The main hall, balcony and pews of Foundry United Methodist Church were entirely filled by District residents on March 5 to demonstrate their support for ending homelessness and creating affordable housing in D.C. The Street Sense theatre group kicked off the event. “We are rallying on behalf of generations of Washingtonians who want to be able to afford to stay in D.C.,” said moderator Stephen Glaude, executive director for the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Development (CNHED). CNHED has been hosting an annual Housing For All rally since 2012.This year’s event, held in partnership with The Way Home Campaign, was titled “Fulfill the Promise” in reference to the promise Mayor Muriel Bowser made at the 2015 rally to budget $100 million dollars for the city’s Housing Production Trust Fund each year. This is an opportunity for advocacy organizations and District residents to communicate to city officials exactly which housing programs, and how much funding, is needed to reduce chronic homelessness and provide more affordable housing, according to Glaude. Councilmembers Brianne Nadau, Elissa Silverman and Vincent Orange addressed the audience and recognized the first place winners of CNHED’s writing competition themed around the prompt “Home Sweet Home.” Hayshlin Valenzuela took first place in the Youth category and Deborah Raashad won first place in the Adult category. The winners read their work aloud, highlighting the importance of having a place to call home. ”In homes, sisters share smiles, kisses and hugs. Home is love. Love is home. Mothers braid hair with ribbons, bows and gentle care. Fathers and brothers protect their kin in a place called home,” Raashad
read from her essay. She and Valenzuela were both greeted with cheers and applause from the audience. The crowd pressed for additional funding for addressing the District’s housing needs. They requested that Bowser and the city council commit at least $100 million to the Housing Production Trust Fund to build new housing and preserve affordable housing. Mayor Bowser announced that her FY2017 budget proposal will include this $100 million. “I said I would use my budget to reflect the priorities that I heard from the residents of the District of Columbia, and number one among them was how ‘do we invest in affordable housing,’” Bowser said. She said that spreading prosperity to more Washingtonian’s is hard, but achievable. “We have an identified problem, we know the numbers, and believe it or not, they are manageable numbers with the right political will, resources, leadership, and execution.” Emotions ran high as residents in need of affordable housing and those who have already benefitted from such programs shared their experiences with the mayor, council members and crowd. “Far too many of our most vulnerable neighbors are dying on the streets without the dignity of a permanent home,” said Emily Buzzell, director of street outreach at Miriam’s Kitchen. Buzzell told the plight of Jose, a homeless man she had met after the January blizzard. Jose wasn’t able to move because his prosthetic legs were frozen from the storm. Before a 12-person rescue team arrived to carry him up a snowy embankment to the hospital, Jose said that he wanted nothing more than a home of his own — somewhere he could rest without worrying that his prosthetic legs might freeze. “I want to find a way to make that happen for Jose and for all our vulnerable neighbors,” Buzzel said. If we want to put an end to the injustice of chronic homelessness, we
must make critical investments right now in housing solutions that work.” James Bell, a formerly homeless man now working as an advocacy fellow at Miriam’s Kitchen, shared his experience with permanent supportive housing. Bell explained that he suffered from PTSD, hypervigilance, depression, and low selfesteem. “Being homeless made coping with these issues impossible.” Since moving into permanent supportive housing with case management services, Bell said, “everything that was dim in my life is now brighter. I can remain calm because I have a comfortable place to process my thoughts.” He had been battling addiction for over 20 years, but now that he is housed he doesn’t feel drawn to substance abuse. “I don’t have anything to escape from — I can just go home.” The Way Home campaign suggests that 1,084 units of permanent supportive housing are needed along with 1,111 units of targeted affordable housing, and 2,522 units for rapid rehousing, in order to end chronic homelessness for individuals in the District by 2017. The campaign recommends that at least $8.6 million is invested into permanent supportive housing for 542 individuals. “The mayor, the council members, they are our staff! We need to do what we need to do to organize, to mobilize, to educate — not only in this church but at the mayor’s office, at city hall,” said David Bowers, of Enterprise Community Partners, Inc, a national affordable housing nonprofit. He reminded the attendees that by participating in this event and rallying to improve funding for supportive and affordable housing, they were the catalyst for change in the District of Columbia. The crowd stood in praise as Bowers words echoed throughout the church, “remember the names of the people you are fighting for, and remember that this is a noble cause.
Street Sense has many media workshops dedicated to helping vendor artists with several aspects of their lives, such as getting to know one another and developing skills that might lead to employment. Workshops such as photography, theater, writing and illustration are available. The photography group meets on Tuesday mornings and is led by a professional photographer. We create photos assignments as well as help cover events, and turn in our photos for review. Some, such as the rally photos to the left of this article, are published in Street Sense. Our group has participated in the Your Shot photo walk with a photography team from National Geographic Society and class members have been given the opportunity to participate in photography contests. Many members have iPhones, which they use in place of cameras. Some use donated cameras, but there are not enough cameras for every student. Taking pictures is an artistic effort that can be enjoyable and relaxing as well as educational. For those participating in the workshop, it can help take our minds, at least for a little while, away from the problems and pressures of being homeless or poor. For all participants in the class to be able to take and share their photos, we are seeking the donation of a minimum of 10 digital cameras less than three years old that use DSLR cards and rechargeable batteries. If any customers have cameras that they would be willing to donate to Street Sense’s photography group — or can provide funding to support the purchase of cameras — please e-mail email@example.com with the subject line: Cameras for Street Sense.
Homelessness and Hardship for LGBT Youth To the Editors: A President for All By Naomi Verdugo
“When I was 12, my sister told my mother I was gay. I didn't have the words to express I was transgender. My mom threw things at me. After that, I got used to not being loved by my mom. “After I transitioned there was no care for me by my family. I got no food. The only place for me to sleep was on a couch with three dogs. “I thought about suicide because there was no love and support to come home to.” As the comments above, from a February 2015 interview with a transgender 21-yearold, exem-plify, lesbian, gay, bisexual and, in particular, transgender people still face significant obstacles to acceptance, despite increased acceptance of LGBT rights. As a consequence of persistent obstacles, a high percentage of LGBT youth become homeless. Though they comprise 10 percent of the population under age 18, it is estimated they comprise 40 percent of homeless youth. Conditions for transgender youth appear to be the most difficult, with 20 percent of transgender adults in their 30s reporting having been homeless at some point in their lives. Studies indicate the most common reasons LGBT youth become homeless is due to family re-jection (including youth forced out by their families and those who ran away due to rejection) and physical, emotional or sexual abuse at home. A 2011 survey of over 6,400 transgender adults age 18 and older reported high percentages had been victims of physical or sexual assault (64 percent), lived in extreme poverty (61 percent), harassment or bullying in school (51 percent) and attempted suicide (41 percent). Some researchers have attributed the high percentage of transgender adults who have attempted suicide to the mental health impact of persistent and extreme discrimination. Adding to the tremendous hardship faced by transgender people is the spate of discriminatory "bathroom bills" such as the one vetoed on March 1 by South Dakota's Republlican governor, Dennis Daugaard. That bill would have required transgender public school students to use the restroom and locker room of their gender at birth, even if they currently live and present themselves as the opposite gender. Ac-cording to the American Civil Liberties Union, over two dozen such bills are pending in states, including Virginia. The Virginia bill would fine students $50 for using the bathroom not corresponding to their gender at birth. Once homeless, life for LGBT youth is even more dangerous than for their nonLGBT counterparts. Fifty-eight percent of LGBT youth report having been sexually assaulted on streets or in shelters, as compared to 33 percent of non-LGBT
youth. Conditions for homeless transgender persons are worst of all as they are more likely to have been incarcerated, more likely to have done sex work, to be HIV-positive and to have attempted suicide (69 percent) than transgender persons who are not homeless. Nearly one-third report having been turned away from shelters because they are transgender, and 42 percent report being forced to stay in facilities for the wrong gender. A key priority should be to prevent homelessness among youth in the first place, with a particular focus on transgender young people and LGBT youth. Here are some steps: 1. Bust stigma. Public awareness and education campaigns can focus attention on gender identification being an essential aspect of who a person is and not a willed choice. Training should include outreach to parents, educators, shelter staff and foster parents so they can provide support to LGBT youth. Understanding and accepting parents, other relatives, friends, teachers, religious leaders and others can
After I transitioned there was no care for me by my family. be the link that prevents home-lessness or suicide among vulnerable youth. 2. Mentor. Specific support for LGBT youth at risk of family abuse or homelessness should include mentors. A responsible mentor can be the lifesaver and role model that young person needs. 3. Provide privacy. Youth deserve to discuss issues related to gender identity and LGBT issues with medical professionals and in privacy. Because transgender youth are often afraid to tell parents and family members about their gender identification and because they often present to medical professionals as depressed, anxious or substance-abusing, it is important that health professionals afford young people some time to discuss any is-sues in private. This doesn't always occur, depriving the young person the chance to get answers to questions or ensure the health professional has all necessary information. The acceptance of my friend and her mother saved my life. They let me live at their house. If I had continued in my home environment I was afraid I would be pushed to commit suicide. “Even today my mother thinks it's a choice, a burden I put on her. But there is some progress. She recently tagged me on Facebook as her daughter.” Naomi Verdugo is an advocate on issues related to children, teens and young adults with mental illness.
Thank you for bringing awareness to homelessness and also bringing recognition to the talent, skills and stories of different individuals in the community and involved in this project with this newspaper. In response to Jeffrey McNeil's article "Black Conservatism Is the New Progressivism" (Feb. 22, 2016), I agree with his argument that an individual should not have to vote for a certain party just because of their gender, age or color. An individual should vote the party that they feel has the ability to make a positive difference in our country. I also agree that individuals should not put emphasis on their race. The important part is having a president that has the ability to be a strong commander-in-chief. However, I disagree greatly with Mr. McNeil's argument that President Barack Obama “makes excuses and blames everyone but himself.” First of all, can you provide some examples that confirm your argument? Obama has not used the "black” card to provide him an advantage to black individuals. In fact, he has been criticized by some who feel he doesn't use his position as commander-in-chief and his race to help enough in the black community. We have to remember that Obama is the president to all individuals in the U.S., and he is supposed to use his position to provide safety, assistance and service to all people regardless of their position, gender or race. Even though our president is black, he has shown that his ability matters more to him than his race. Have you ever seen this president act complacent? Personally, I feel that the president has shown himself to be a great leader and commander-in-chief despite the obstacles and challenges he has endured. Instead of conceding and surrendering to those obstacles, he has persevered. Examples? Sure. The Affordable Care Act, for one. He felt all individuals in America needed affordable health care. There were some who could not afford it and some who could not have it, were not approved or whose health care was terminated. The president signed the Affordable Care Act into law despite the obstacles he faced. (And obstacles still exist). Second, he passed an executive order to provide some restrictions on gun laws. This was an issue he took to Congress numerous times and was consistently ignored. Instead of conceding, he took matters into his own hands because he felt this was too serious to ignore and wanted to do something. His agreement with Iran (and other nations on nuclear weapons) is yet another example of his achievements. This was met with challenges and even blatant disrespect from other Republicans, such as Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton. However, the president
and other leaders felt a negotiation was in order, and we were not in any position to make a threat or initiate a war (which was what Republicans wanted to do). So far, this has proved to be an effective strategy. And due to the unfortunate loss of Justice Antonin Scalia, the president wants to immediately nominate a qualified person who can serve in place of Scalia. This has been met with opposition from the Republican presidential candidates and the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). My question is why? I also feel that the president and the first lady have attempted and succeeded in demonstrating that their positions and authority haven't made them too aloof to socialize, communicate and establish a relationship with all individuals, regardless of their status. Personally, I feel that most of the Republicans have shown and confirmed that they are not ready for "prime time" or ready for the presidency. Not because they are not intelligent, because I am sure that they are, but to me, they have conducted their campaigns on their emotions and feelings and not the strength of their ability. To me, they have shown an inability to lead this nation. Why? Well, one candidate makes broad and brash statements, about which he feels unapologetic and justified in saying, but feels insulted and picked on when someone argues with his words. Most of them have used their platforms to insult and provide negative statements about the other, instead of discussing the positive and their own successes. They feel they have to downgrade someone to lift themselves up. One candidate refused to participate in a debate because he felt he was above that. Then another candidate refused to participate in a Fox News debate because he felt he had issues with one of the moderators. Tell me, Mr. McNeil, how does this qualify as having leadership abilities? The Republican candidates have made suggestions on what they would do to improve the economy, the nation, but have not provided any evidence on how they would be able to do it. To tell you the truth, Mr. McNeil, talking a good game does not impress me. I want to hear how the candidates are able to go about their ideas and suggestions. To me, these Republicans candidates are the ones who have been making excuses and blaming others, not themselves. Is this who you want to represent the party you choose to vote for? There's nothing wrong with a person of color voting Republican, but there's something wrong with a person of color voting Republican simply because he wants to go against the norm. Signed, Point of View
Have an opinion about how homelessness is being handled in our community? Street Sense maintains an open submission policy and prides itself as a newspaper that elevates community voices and fosters healthy debate. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I Saw The Revolution By Jeffery McNeil
If you're an old school leftist, please move aside and allow me to speak to the millennials. Millennials: Please read this, it's very important, because I saw the Revolution and it sucked. The ’70s were a terrible period. It was the Village People, disco and Iran. It was the golden age of criminals. Liberals ran New York City into the ground, with people burning down their homes in the Bronx. Women's Lib led to a high rate of divorce, the breakdown of family values and a moral decay similar to that of the Roman Empire. Liberals promise paradise, but they create a hell on earth for those affected by their policies. The evidence is all around you. Look at Baltimore: once one of our greatest cities, today it looks like a ghost town. What destroyed it? Liberals! Liberals and radical environmentalists destroyed California, too. Now businesses don't want to go there because of high taxes. I have one purpose: to save millennials from the hell on earth known as Leftism. I was born during the Age of Aquarius and came of age during the liberation move-
ments of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Although some romanticize that period, I’m not trying to go back there. I recently saw Chris Matthews interviewing Bernie Sanders on MSNBC. It was two Baby Boomers reminiscing about the the liberation movements. But I grew up with the revolutionaries. These were the people that claimed to be fighting for your rights until you tried to date their daughters -- then they hightail it to the suburbs. I remember in junior high having a leftist schoolteacher who happened to be engaged to an African American. Because she dated someone black, she thought she understood minorities. However, she was a terrible teacher. In her eyes minorities could do no wrong. She had no control of her classroom but dismissed this because of slavery and oppression. Anyone that objected to her method of teaching was racist, fascist or just mean-spirited. They say a conservative is a liberal who's been robbed. Over time I saw this radical left-wing teacher drift right. Today she is a superintendent of public schools and supports getting rid of school lunches as well as
defunding the teachers union. I wouldn't be surprised today if she’s a Trump supporter. Today I see the idealistic kids trying to recreate the ’70s with Black Lives Matter and other protests. They think they're being hip and cool but this is old and tired. Some people in my generation think they’re spoiled brats in need of a spanking. I see these millennials all fired up about Bernie Sanders but his promises are nothing new. Look at his record: what has he ever delivered for his people? There is nothing new about Bernie Sanders. He was around during the McGovern and Mondale years when both lost 49 out of 50 states. Imagine being so far to the left you can't win states such as New York and California. Millennials need to quit thinking on the ideological plantation and parroting the words of leftists. They are not interested in you. They just see you as a pawn in their quest for power. Don't be moved by emotion but instead use reason and logic. Jeffery McNeil is a columnist and vendor for Street Sense.
MOVING UP: Independent Contractors By Arthur Johnson
By most accounts, the employment picture in the nation has improved, and more people are having better luck finding work, although many still struggle to find any job. One big reason the employ-ment picture has improved is because many companies are switching to the practice of using independent contractors. It is a practice that has been going on for years but has picked up recently in the last few years. One of the biggest companies using this format is Uber. A substantial number of their drivers are independent contractors. Another example is Street Sense. The vendors operate as independent contractors. They get the papers, sell them and pay Street sense a fee (.50) for each issue sold and the difference from what they sold the issue for is their profit. There are several reasons this is happening. One of the biggest is the implementation of the Af-fordable Care Act. While it is an excellent law that has helped many people, businesses have been looking for every possible opportunity to avoid covering employees. By making you an independent contractor, they are shifting the responsibility of providing and paying for your insurance to you. One good thing is that as an independent contractor, you are essentially self-employed and that gives you the ability to deduct your insurance premiums from your taxes (consult a tax professional to make sure it is done correctly). Another reason employers are using this is because it means they do not have to pay the taxes
an employer usually does. Being an independent contractor can be either a positive or negative experience, but it is extremely important that you do everything the proper way. The first thing is to find out if you are one: some companies make you an independent contractor and don’t bother telling you. As an independent contractor, you are fully responsible for the entire amount of Social Security and Medicare taxes. Social Security is 12.4 percent (the amount is usually split between the employer and employee) and Medicare is 2.9 percent of income. You also have to pay your estimated income taxes quarterly. The company will send you and the IRS a form 1099Misc at the end of the year if you are an inde-pendent contractor and if you are paid over $400. It is very important to know the classification before you receive the 1099Misc form because the taxes will be due and you could be hit with penalties and interest if you have not set aside for them. This is a big reason why you want to find out as soon as you start working for a company. If you start working for a company and are told you are an independent contractor and don’t agree, you can file IRS form SS-8 Determination of Worker status for purpose of Federal employment taxes and income tax withholding. The form examines the three elements that the IRS uses in deter-mining if a worker is an independent contractor or employee. They are 1) behavioral control, which basically describes
the conditions under which the work is performed; 2) financial control, which deals with how compensation is received and determined; and 3) relationship of the worker and firm. Both parties have to fill it out and the decision of the IRS is binding to both parties. If the IRS rules in your favor that the company had been wrongly classifying you as an independent contractor instead of an employee, you must file IRS form 8919 Uncollected Social Security and Medicare tax on wages. The employer will then have to pay their part of those taxes. You also have to pay your quarterly estimated Federal and state taxes. As an independent contractor you are on your own, so it is absolutely necessary to make sure you have business liability insurance, especially if you are doing something where liability is an issue such being an Uber driver. There have been a number of lawsuits against many companies, including Uber, challenging the decision of the company to label someone as an independent contractor. There are benefits to be sure. You can set your own hours, gain excellent tax advantages and have more control over your future. But don’t jump in without setting things up properly. In the next is-sue, we will walk through the steps necessary to set yourself up for self-employment, including the forms you need to fill out and the agencies you will need to visit. Arthur Johnson is a volunteer columnist focusing on finance and economic issues.
STREET SENSE March 9 - 22, 2016
Budgeting to End Homelessness By Angie Whitehurst
An amazing event took place on Feb. 23. Emceed by our elected mayor – the strong, confident, knowledgeable and engaging Muriel Bowser – Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School, aka the "Rough Riders," hosted a budget engagement forum in their newly renovated gym. An overflow of more than 250 people were seated randomly at 25 tables, with 10 people each, and the remainder were easily seated in the bleachers. Each table was hosted by a staff person from the mayor's office and an agency head. The other eight were concerned, civic-minded individuals from every ward in the city and included community advocates for health, education, homeless, the poor, business owners, seniors, retirees, athletes, mothers and children – all citizens and residents of Washington D.C. Even D.C. police Chief Cathy Lanier was in attendance. Matt Brown, D.C. budget director, and City Administrator Rashad Young kicked off the event. Each participant was given a budget sheet with categories and $100 to allocate between educa-tion, public safety, health and human services, government operations, housing, economic de-velopment and jobs. Each table shared results and took the highest amount submitted. The mayor’s staff took copious amounts of notes on everything the participants shared. We talked about each budget area. For example, some people wanted more money for teachers to improve education; others wanted the whole education system revamped so that we’re training people to be productive as soon as they leave high school. The totals were then transferred to a large chart on each table. Four groups were chosen to share their budgets. Of course, most people’s budget sections, added together, ran over the total budget. It’s hard to choose between housing and job development, or between education and public service. Afterwards, the mayor visited and spoke with every table. This was remarkable, participatory and educational. Best of all, she reaffirmed a commitment to eradicate homelessness and the closing of D.C. General. We can work together, no try needed. Just do it! Let’s go D.C. Angie Whitehurst is an artist and vendor with Street Sense.
The Street Sense Writers’ Group is led by writing professionals and meets every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. The group’s goal is to develop ideas and collaborate on the next great issue of Street Sense.
PERCEPTION OR REALITY: To God be the Glory Today & Yesterday By Robert Williams, USMC, Vendor/Artist In the hustle and bustle from day to day, I see people push and shove others. They seem unaware or don’t realize how easy it is to go astray. Life and love originate from above. Sure, along with the rain comes some pain. But after that comes the sunshine and you can see that you are not left behind. I try to be forgiving, patient and kind.
Trust yourself. Believe in yourself. Most people don’t have a clue as to what we/ they are. Are we black or white or gray? It really doesn’t matter today. My past is a place of reference, not a place of residence. My past is a mystery and my present is a blessing. Live life and love everyone. To God be the glory for my story.
BABY BUSINESS: Two Decades After Pittsburgh By Patti Smith, Vendor/Artist
Even though my mother was in Pittsburgh living by herself and needed me, I wanted to move to Washington, D.C. Mom had needed me since Aunt Ruthy, my favorite aunt, died. She and my mom had raised me. Of all our kids, I knew her the best 'cause I was the oldest. I had been in Washington years in the past, and I had two marriages under my belt. I had recently been released from the Army. So, I moved to Fairmount Street NW. After I had been in this rooming house for about a week, a young man telephoned. We started talking. He asked whether he could come over to visit. I agreed, so he came later that day. His name was Nathaniel. I only had a bed, so we sat on it and talked. He noticed me looking sad and asked me what was wrong. I said my favorite aunt had died. "I'm your friend now," he said, which comforted me. After that he came over every day. I was calling him every day on the pay phone--until it was turned off. Soon he introduced me to Mr. Bassey, who had a Trinidadian girlfriend. We two started visiting the two men in Mr. Bassey's room, which was down the street. I was visiting temporary agencies trying to get work, practicing my typewriting skills in my room and at the agencies. Eventually I landed a few assignments. Soon, though, I noticed I was getting behind in my rent. Nathaniel would give me part of the money; the rest came from my temporary jobs. "You got to do something else to make additional
money," Nathaniel warned one night. So, we decided to approach Howard University to see whether I could type their assignments. I went to a copier and got pens, markers and copier paper for my typewriter. Presto! We were in business! I made posters and a name for the business: Patty's Typing To-Go and Baby Business. Then I ran around to Howard, Georgetown, George Washington and Johns Hopkins. Nathaniel and I had long discussions about how we would handle pricing. Some students didn't want to pay exactly what we asked. Sooner or later, though, we made some money. However, I still had to pay my rent. After falling $1,000 behind, I was threatened with eviction. So, in the summer of 1994 I moved in with my uncle. I gave him some of my employment money. But after a while I couldn't pay him, so I couldn't stay with him either. By fall I was back in Pittsburgh with my mother and my brother. My brother and I began a business typing for students at universities and colleges such as Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pittsburgh, Robert Morris College, Carlow College and Duquesne. We put up posters on their campuses and talked with them on the phone. If they called and I wasn't there, they left messages on my answering machine. We ran that business for 18 months. That time in my typing service made me feel really good, back in the day when I only had a typewriter.
By Charlton Battle Vendor/Artist I’m a product of Street Sense, and the struggle began way before today. There is a difference in the struggle of today and yesterday. Today is a beautiful struggle, although still a struggle. I don’t have the things that some say a person of good sound mind, body and soul need. But I am somebody. This is what Allah, God, has given me through Street Sense. Yes, I eat and have a roof. What I eat has to be questioned and sometimes requested. I’m Muslim, so some people don’t understand that when you are in need, you shouldn’t question the giver. Anyway, my home is the shelter. Germs are a big factor: bed bugs and sick people, inside and out. I love helping, when I know how. But when the problem is not seen, but shown, you are lost at how to help. I refuse to help the evil. Not today, I pray.
The Amazing Black Lion By Chon Gotti, Vendor/Artist
Taking one day at a time, filling myself with the right people and the right mixture of positive social relationships, I am the Black Lion of the Street. I am making the best out of each and every moment, preparing myself to feast in honor of my Cherokee blood, while the freedom bell rings through my African heritage. So prepare yourself, the mighty fruits of God have arrived. Real success is just a journey. Pray for Peace worldwide.
Life Is - ?
By Frederic John, Vendor/Artist “Life is like that.” What? What is life like? Reward, surprises shock! All of the above, in a walk! Acceptance, my friend is the Answer: What do I think? In my case, I will not take A drink.
School and Government Jacqueline Turner, Vendor/Artist
In the past, the people of the United States placed a high value on education. It was important to make sure your children had more education and better education! The money for school came out of taxes and the government. But somewhere along the line, education became a business. The government never budgets enough to support a quality system, so charter and private schools came around to offer better options. If the people are the government, then what could be more important than the education of our children? Handwriting cursive writing is no longer a part of school. Spelling is autocorrected. Everything can be learned online, without working in person with a teacher. Is this what the people really want? PS — To Mr. Carl Turner: I am sorry your daughter passed away. You are in my prayers. God will see you through. She is in a better place. -Jackie
My Story of Misdemeanor Incarceration
I am writing about being incarcerated in Washington, DC for being a black man. While incarcerated, they tried to break my spirit and don’t have help for you once you are released. I have been incarcer-ated for little crimes, like drinking in public and disorderly conduct. There is no help for people once you are released and after you do your time. They give you a new sentence by putting you on proba-tion, hoping you will violate it so you will return to jail.
Being locked up in jail was the worst thing I have dealt with in my life. People were always fighting. Then, once you complete all the tasks that they give you, you don’t have anything to look forward to. I was out here on these streets and want to thank everyone in Tenley Town for their support. In that cell with another male every day, I had to learn his moves, so we
By Ryan Turner, Vendor/Artist
I’ve been fortunate not to have a bad experience while incarcerated. I got along with my cellmate, who was also in for a minor infraction. When I got out, I had to return to the streets. I no longer plan to go to jail. I try to work selling my papers and doing construction. I’m looking for a fulltime job. I hope my nonviolent misdemeanors will not be held against me. I am grateful for the support of my faithful customers.
By Joe Jackson, Vendor/Artist wouldn’t fight. I had to follow the rules every day the same way. I go outside, look at the sky and say “Lord, is there a way?” This morning I woke up in a bathroom, because I am afraid to sleep around those with mental health issues. I have to stay where I am safe. Even though I’m no longer in prison, sometimes it feels like I’m still looked up.
STREET SENSE March 9 - 22, 2016
VENDOR WRITING AFTER KATRINA: A Ten-Year Roller Coaster, Part 16 By Gerald Anderson, Vendor/Artist
STREET SENSE SELFIES!
PREVIOUSLY: After the detective tryin’ to get me to rat on other dealers, and me tellin’ him, “If I did know, I wouldn’t tell you,” he threaten me with life sentences. After me bein’ in the cell four or five hours, the van moves me and my co-defendants to the holding tank for court. I was thinkin’ to myself, I never dealt with the FBI. The people I know who deal with the FBI, they never see the street again. Finally the guards cuff our hands in front of us and escort us to the courtroom in shackles. I got a state appointed lawyer; he say you got 38 counts indictment—like drug traffic, buying and selling controlled substances. He also say, wiretap, which means my phone was hit. In my mind I’m thinkin’ I ain’t gonna see that blue sky again for a long time... After the judge say we finished, the marshals told us to stand up one by one and they led us out of the courtroom, back down to the holding tank. With the Marshalls in their suits escorting me, it made me feel like a celebrity. The only thing different is you got cuffs on. But you got plenty of body guards walkin’ with you: Nine of us co-defendents, ten body guards. For three or four hours me and my codefendents sat in the holding tank. I was asking the others how this go, because I never dealt with the FBI before. The kingpin—my head man in command, the one I used to drive around in his fancy car—say, “Enjoy the ride, because you ain’t gonna go home no time soon. Keep your head up, stay strong, stay like the team we were on the street.” He told me I had the best lawyer, a charity lawyer, and that he a celebrity lawyer who can beat charges. And then we start crackin’ jokes about the old days on the street. Tryin’ to keep our mind from what’s goin’ on, we talked about goin’ out with this girl and that,. We talked about a broad I got to get with. They sayin’ “We remember the night you had Kim with you. We been tryin’ to
get with her ever since high school. How the Hell you get lucky to get with her? You must be trickin’ a lotta money to her.” I say, “Nah, she like what she sees. Why can’t it just be my player status?” One othe guy ask me, “Where the cops caught you at?” So I was runnin’ down to them how I got caught. I told them, “I always lay inside in the daytime. I only come out at night, like three o’clock in the morning, because I know the polices’ shift times. And I know they lookin’ for me. “So one morning, one of the young guys I used to get the coke from called and told me he wanted to see me early in the morning, before the boys we don’t like (the police) come on shift. I told him, ‘Make sure if you come, come by yourself.’ “I knew I was wanted because someone told me they saw me on the news. And that the cops was goin’ around the neighborhood showin’ my picture, askin’ folks if they seen me. “So I got up that morning in the trap house I be in (that mean a hustlin’ house) to wait in the hall for my young boy to come to bring me the product (y’know cocaine, crack, whatever). “He came, we talk for minute, and I tell him we really can’t stand there because the cop could see me. I just wanna do business and let you go; the FBI on me like gravy on rice. (to be continued) My book, Still Standing: How an ExCon Found Salvation in the Floodwaters of Katrina, is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle form. It’s a tough story but also good, because I’m still standing, so it makes a nice gift! I hope you will tell your friends about it. It tells a story of poverty, life on the streets and in prison that many from age 12 to 92 would not otherwise know. If you like it, maybe you can write an Amazon review. Thank you!
ILLUSTRATION BY TYLER HARCHELROAD
By Ivory Wilson Vendor/Artist INT. WASHINGTON DC - NIGHT UNION STATION New York familys want more f r o m D e a n ’s outfit profits he’s taking from Washington, DC. The mice bosses been paying protection to the Gallery Place China Town Irish and Chinese Gang’s Dean’s Rivals. Dean plans to take over the China Town Rackets, the mice brothels, number running, speakeasy, and gambling. Outfit has high-jacking goods, merchandise, fish, and chicken from the 7th and F Street gangs. EXT. - UNION STATION - NIGHT - UNDERGROUND Dean is on his throne, eyes shifting from side to side. He stands up, hitting his fist repeatedly on the table, spilling drinks, shouting “This city is mine!!” Outfit feasting on spoiled rotten pecking duck.
Pledge: Boss it can be done! By getting them together in one joint. Dean: Boys, he has balls. I like this kid. He has balls! Dean has had most o his rivals knocked off. Rags: Boss, we’ll make it look like an accident! Dean playing golf, putting into a soup can, smoking a fat joint. Dean: Make sure there’s no witnesses alive. I want all of them dead no news to newyork family how it happen. They laugh. EXT. - VERIZON CENTER - DAY Pledge and his crew posted on the roof top of the Hotel Monaco, 7th and F Street NW, watching the coming and goings of the Irish and Chinese gangs out of Gallery Place Station, having their day-byday coffee and late night they go down to the lower track level and have dinner together and play poker in the security basement room. IN. CAPITOL HILL - DAY
Dean: Boys, time to expand. I want that “woo” The Germ and that O’Diseases bumped off. Rags: But Boss, going knocking off made Bosses our own kind. New York Bosses not going to like this. two gangs at once. NEW ENFORCER - PLEDGE
Pee Wee the Flea has gone to the feds, flew out of DC on Pigeon Airlines. Bill has been re-located to the White House Lawn. Willie the Squirrel and his wife gather nuts by day and stay in the trees after dark. Mick the Tick is still in hiding with Larry. (to be continued)
Outlook: Rapid Development By Reginald Black “Da Street Reportin’ Artist” Today’s Washington is rapidly changing. There is a whole lot of development taking place, such as the 8th Street outlet: a former small hub of commerce since closed. Or Ben’s chili bowl, which is now thriving on H Street and sporting a location at Reagan Airport. The Department of Human Services is even renovating its office with new construction. And the D.C. Streetcar on H Street, one of the city’s most extensive projects, finally had its grand opening on February 27. The streetcar was started by Anthony Williams in 2006. After ten years, four mayors, many District Department of Transportation directors, a lot of council member’s and ANC commissioners and much opposition — we can see if it was worth it. (The Kingman Park Civic Association has been quiet ever since attempting to halt the car barn constructed at Spingarn High School) The project was estimated to have
cost about $200 million to complete and currently runs from Union Station to Oklahoma Avenue NE. Many people attended this major event to commemorate the first ride on a new method of transportation on H Street. And Bowser made an appearance, saying that she would like to see the streetcar extend to Benning Road Station to make it relevant to Ward 7. Along the route you can see many developments, such as the Apollo being built across the street from the former Human Services center. Or the H Street outlet, which has been cleared of all its retail business and awaits plans. An exceptionally strange scene during the first streetcar ride was protesters representing the Metro union. They felt that the city will not protect the rights of its new streetcar workers. Those workers have since voted to join the union. With the city changing rapidly many feel that the change may not be for them. There’s new development for people experiencing homelessness too. We’re finally
closing the embattled DC General building. Mayor Bowser released the proposed addresses for the seven small family shelter facilities that will take its place in each ward except Ward 2, which just opened a new shelter for single women. But not all sites share equal amenities such as transit accessibility equivalent to DC General’s Stadium Armory Metro stop. Some of the environments are not suitable for families either, regardless of housing status. Ward 5’s proposed location is near a railroad track, a bus depot and several night clubs. In Ward 6, the proposed site is near a highway and will be dwarfed by two industrial plants. Not exactly family friendly. This replacement plan also does not account for moving the hundreds of families still placed in various hotels into new shelter facilities. But we all hope that replacing this facility will be a step up. As Washington grows, there are still plenty of people struggling to make ends meet. Average rent in the District can run anywhere from fifteen hundred to eigh-
teen hundred dollars for a one bedroom apartment. At a recent budget engagement forum, City Administration Rashad Young stated that the city spends $150 million on Human Services. This points to a rising housing crisis. At the February 28 budget engagement session Young ran down some numbers for last year’s budget, including $100 million for the Housing Productions Trust Fund. The city also spent 48 million in housing affordability and 44 million to replace public housing. He pointed out that the city spent 40 million dollars in capital dollars for the closure of DC General. Then participants were asked to balance a mock budget of 100 dollars. On table ended us over budget by $86, while another balanced the books with a whopping $30 dollars invested into housing. As our city continues to grow, I hope the mayor will effectively use feedback like this to help those who are really in need in our nation’s capital.
Stingy Sharkie Now to Ug I proffer duble eyes, oddly yours; double nostrills, th’ page; t’ dobble mowth, deade in-stead; image t’ spread or yowr age. Look throwgh whatt now I proffer.
-By Franklin Sterling, Vendor/Artist
*CORRECTION: In my “Evitable Puzzles of Delight” puzzle printed in the August 26, 2015 edition of Street Sense, I’ve found a grave error. A misreading of my writing led to the misspelling of “Nanautzin,” the correct spelling for answer #3. We apologize for the oversight.
STREET SENSE March 9 - 22, 2016
COMMUNITY SERVICES Housing/Shelter
Academy of Hope Public Charter School: 269-6623 | 601 Edgewood St, NE aohdc.org Bread for the City: 265-2400 (NW) | 561-8587 (SE) 1525 7th St, NW | 1640 Good Hope Rd, SE breadforthecity.org
Community of Hope: 232-7356 communityofhopedc.org
Jobs Have Priority: 544-9128 425 Snd St, NW jobshavepriority.org
Covenant House Washington: 610-9600 2001 Mississippi Avenue, SE covenanthousedc.org
John Young Center: 639-8569 119 D Street, NW
Calvary Women’s Services: 678-2341 1217 Good Hope Road, SE calvaryservices.org
D.C. Coalition for the Homeless: 347-8870 1234 Massachusetts Ave, NW dccfh.org
Catholic Charities: 772-4300 catholiccharitiesdc.org/gethelp
Father McKenna Center: 842-1112 19 Eye St, NW fathermckennacenter.org
Charlie’s Place: 232-3066 1830 Connecticut Ave, NW charliesplacedc.org Christ House: 328-1100 1717 Columbia Rd, NW christhouse.org Church of the Pilgrims: 387-6612 2201 P St, NW churchofthepilgrims.org/outreach food (1 - 1:30 on Sundays only)
Friendship Place: 364-1419 4713 Wisconsin Ave, NW friendshipplace.org Community Family Life Services: 347-0511 | 305 E St, NW cflsdc.org
Food and Friends: 269-2277 219 Riggs Rd, NE foodandfriends.org (home delivery for those suffering from HIV, cancer, etc)
Foundry Methodist Church: 332-4010 1500 16th St, NW foundryumc.org/ministry-opportunities ID (FRIDAY 9-12 ONLY)
Georgetown Ministry Center: 338-8301 1041 Wisconsin Ave, NW georgetownministrycenter.org Gospel Rescue Ministries: 842-1731 810 5th St, NW grm.org
Martha’s Table: 328-6608 2114 14th St, NW marthastable.org
Sasha Bruce Youthwork: 675-9340 741 8th St, SE sashabruce.org
So Others Might Eat (SOME) 797-8806 71 O St, NW some.org
Miriam’s Kitchen: 452-8926 2401 Virginia Ave, NW miriamskitchen.org
St. Luke’s Mission Center: 333-4949 3655 Calvert St. NW stlukesmissioncenter.org
My Sister’s Place: 529-5991 (24-hour hotline) mysistersplacedc.org
Thrive DC: 737-9311 1525 Newton St, NW thrivedc.org
N Street Village: 939-2060 1333 N Street, NW nstreetvillage.org
New York Ave Shelter: 832-2359 1355-57 New York Ave, NE Open Door Shelter: 639-8093 425 2nd St, NW newhopeministriesdc.org/id3.html
Samaritan Inns: 667-8831 2523 14th St, NW samaritaninns.org
Samaritan Ministry: 1516 Hamilton Street NW | 722-2280 1345 U Street SE | 889-7702 samaritanministry.org
Unity Health Care: 745-4300 3020 14th St, NW unityhealthcare.org
The Welcome Table: 347-2635 1317 G St, NW epiphanydc.org/thewelcometable Whitman-Walker Health 1701 14th St, NW | 745-7000 2301 MLK Jr. Ave, SE | 797-3567 whitman-walker.org
CELEBRATING SUCCESS! In Loving Memory By Cynthia Mewborn, Vendor/Artist Vendor/artist Michael Jackson was the kind of person who always had a warm smile, a gentle hello, a soft handshake, a pleasant word and an engaging conversation. He never complained, instead choosing to keep moving forward no matter the situation or circumstance. He had a visible physical disability outside of his control, yet Michael’s spirit and gentle soul superseded any disability he had. His big smile could light up any dark room and his large personality filled any room he entered. It was hard to notice that Michael sat in a wheelchair until he whizzed by doing ninety five miles per hour. You would know instantly that something had passed you, but it took extra effort on your part to look down the
street and see that it was Michael zooming by. He had a way of doing things that was truly his own. Michael would always let you know how much he enjoyed and loved Street Sense and his supporters. There is a relationship that is formed between vendors and our customers that can’t be broken by anyone. Michael understood that. He will be deeply missed by Street Sense staff and customers alike. Perhaps I will see Michael again in heaven. Perhaps we will continue our conversation where we left off on earth. Over 7. 5 billion people live on our planet, yet God uniquely created every single person with different talents and skills. It’s our job to find out what those
abilities are and use them. Michael did, he let his little light shine through all the people he interacted with daily. He showed us that no matter what difficulty you face in life, you must be greet moment and challenge of the day with courage. Michael’s strong sense of self was very clear. What defined him was his caring, kind, sweet and likeable soul, and his willingness to share it with others. May you rest in sweet peace, fellow vendor of Street Sense Michael Jackson. Know that you’ve touched many people, including myself, with your gentle personality.
LAST WORD: A DEAL OR A STEAL? By Marie-Louise Murville, Volunteer
VENDOR PROFILE: LEONARD HYATER By Michael Brice-Saddler, Editorial Intern Leonard Hyater, 56, is focused on his goals. Nothing, not even homelessness, can stop him from reaching them. Hyater sees himself ten years from now being financially secure, going back to school and owning property. Although the future seems distant, he is prepared to do whatever it takes to make his dreams a reality. Currently, the former real estate broker is facing his second year in a shelter. His situation is further marred by sleep apnea and what he calls “a difficult family situation.” In spite of these roadblocks, Hyater is working diligently to transform his life for the better. “I just want people to know that I’m very determined,” he said. “Once my mind is set on something, it’s set on something.” During his time in shelters, Hyater has seen a little bit of everything. Mainly, he has noticed that homeless people are often categorized into one group, causing them all to be perceived and treated negatively. There’s no certain way that a homeless person is supposed to look, he said, recalling a time when someone was surprised because Hyater “didn’t look homeless.” Hyater occasionally hears offensive remarks aimed toward homeless people,
which he finds particularly distressing. “Nobody has the right to treat someone as less than a human being. Just because you’re homeless, doesn’t mean you’re dirty or scraggly.” For this District native, Street Sense has been a major catalyst for improving his situation. Selling papers has allowed Hyater to pay his bills, wash clothes and handle personal matters. “Street Sense is a very informative and beneficial paper,” Hyater said. “Homelessness is not just a D.C. issue — it’s a worldwide one.” Hyater is a no-nonsense kind of guy. He hopes that after reaching his goals, he’ll be able to go back to enjoying the little things — something he has not been able to do in a long time. Though he plans to improve his current situation, he is not as confident in the District’s plan to absolve homelessness. “The cost of living is going up, but wages are not,” he said. Never willing to give up, Hyater encourages those in similar situations to maintain a positive attitude and have faith. “Be blessed and don’t give up. Whatever you’re going through in life, have courage, and be strong.”
March 9 - 22, 2016 • Volume 13 • Issue 9
Street Sense 1317 G Street, NW
Nonprofit Org US Postage Paid Washington, DC
Washington, DC 20005
Remember, buy only from badged vendors and do not give to those panhandling with one paper. Interested in a subscription? Go to page 15 for more information.
Ray Rose is a D.C. native. Ray Rose is a veteran. Ray Rose is a former cameraman for Channel 7. And Ray Rose is formerly homeless. He’s seen a thing or two. He understands a lot. What Ray Rose doesn’t understand is why the District is disposing of 67 acres of waterfront, Metro accessible property and scrounging for bits of land in all 8 wards to shelter only a portion of our city’s homeless families. Why not rebuild on the DC General campus? That’s the question he posed to Mayor Muriel Bowser at the February 17 Ward 3 Democrats community meeting. The answer? “It’s too big.” Really. But the problem is more complicated than size. Let’s also talk about costs, fairness, and solutions. In regards to size, the converted DC General Hospital building is just one of many buildings on 67 acres of land owned by the District of Columbia. The campus also includes DC Jail, an STD Clinic, a detox center, an emergency women’s shelter and more. According the District’s 2002 Master Plan for usage of this specific property, also known as Reservation 13 and Hill East, it is “one of our City’s most important public land resources.” According to a March 2, 2015 land disposition agreement, the city is proposing to dispose of two parcels from the 67 to developers (major donors to the Bowser campaign) to develop it for entertainment and apartments. The purchase price for the District’s right, title, and interest in the property is $10. Simultaneously, the city expects to pay for the construction of facilities on generally less than an acre of land each in every ward. Nearly 70 acres of waterfront, metro accessible land for less than 10 acres, some of which are pretty remote. That doesn’t sound fair. Let’s talk more about costs. The city currently spends $17million per year to operate DC General family shelter, which has about 1000 people sleeping there per night split among 250 units. This is District-owned land: no rent, no mortgage. Each unit, specified as emergency shelter, costs $53,895 per year to operate, according to the city’s 5-year plan to end homelessness, Homeward DC. That’s $150 per day. For $150 per day, anyone—especially a single mother working multiple part-time jobs—should expect standards such as a clean, safe, private bathroom for herself and her children. If we aren’t providing basic levels of sanitation expected of any DC landlord/tenant agreement where is the funding going now? The conditions of our family shelter are notorious. And the city is expecting to maintain this daily emergency shelter cost. In
Homeward DC’s projected future system, $53,595 per year would be spent to operate each emergency unit. That translates to $1 per day less. How much better can we honestly expect those services to be? Rent in most of these locations is astronomical. DC Government is agreeing to lease each property for period ranging from 15 to 30 years, with single short term options for renewal. Depending on the individual lease agreement, the new facilities will cost over $3400 per unit per month. Double the price of a superior nearby apartment. And, the expensive new buildings don’t provide families with private bathrooms. On top of that, many of the new sites are isolated far from transportation, schools, and recreation. Size matters. Cost matters. Fairness matters. Tell us the truth. Is it fair to trade 67 acres for less than 10? Are we currently spending $53,000 per unit wisely? Will be just be spreading out a broken problem? There are alternatives to the proposed Homeward DC plan. To quote Martin Luther King, Jr. “I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, quality, and freedom for their spirits.” I also believe that we can do a better job with the 67 acres the city already owns. Four possible alternatives to start: 1. Take a look at the City’s Master Plan from 2002 – describing details of using the land for housing, training, employment, recreation, etc. 2. Provide Modular housing or mobile homes for each unit using the current 67 acres. A brand new mobile home with private bath, kitchen, bedroom, living room, and dining room can be purchased for ~$50,000. 3. Request and review proposals from the numerous qualified DC residents, architects, and urban planners. Many individuals expressed interest at the Ward 3 community meeting I attended on March 5. 4. Request proposals from the homeless veterans, FEMA, and the US Army Corps of Engineers. The USA is extremely proficient in deploying housing fast around the globe. Perhaps some of our homeless veterans, moms and kids can embark on a new mission to collaboratively solve the housing problem better, faster, and more cost effectively. Certainly, all the needed expertise and person-power is available and accessible in our metropolitan area. The good news is that none of this is actually a “deal” yet. It’s still pending approval from the Zoning Board and the Council for a hearing on March 17th. Let’s mobilize now to demand more time and transparency to get a fair deal. See you March 17th, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 10:30am.
Ray Hicks - 3/11