Mayor Bowser proposes increases for ending chronic homelessness, but housing investments fall far short of need

2018-04-16 | , Miriam's Kitchen

On March 21st, Mayor Bowser released her fiscal year 2019 Budget Proposal, which outlines her spending priorities for the coming year. The proposed budget makes important investments in housing, services, and shelter improvements for individuals experiencing homelessness, but falls far short of the housing investments needed to stay on track with the goals outlined in Homeward DC, DC’s plan to make homelessness rare, brief, and nonrecurring.

Highlights of the proposed budget include $8.4 million in housing solutions for 420 individuals experiencing chronic homelessness and $1.6 million to house 50 families in Permanent Supportive Housing. Additionally, this budget includes significant resources for expanded daytime services, shelter redevelopment, and homelessness prevention for individuals.

Specifically, increased investments in Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) and a greater focus on ending chronic homelessness for individuals mark significant improvements over last year’s budget. Still, we are concerned that only 24% of The Way Home Campaign’s housing recommendations were funded and worry that, without robust investments from the DC Council, we will not realize our shared goal of ending chronic homelessness.

Below is a detailed analysis of the Mayor’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal and what it means for ending chronic homelessness in DC.

HOUSING TO END CHRONIC HOMELESSNESS

The Mayor’s Budget proposal includes $8.4 million in new funding to expand housing programs proven to address chronic homelessness and to help connect 420 individuals to housing and $1.6 million to expand permanent supportive housing for 50 families. Specifically, the proposal includes $6 million for Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH); $1.3 million for Targeted Affordable Housing (TAH), and $1.1 million for Rapid Rehousing (RRH). A breakdown of these proposed investments is as follows:

Proposed investments in PSH, RAH, and RRH

 

TWHC Recommendation

Mayor's FY19 Budget Proposal

Additional funding needed  

PSH for individuals

820 units ($19.6m)

250 units ($6m)

570 units ($13.6m)

TAH for individuals

400 units ($7.1m)

70 units ($1.3m)

330 units ($5.9)

RRH for individuals

400 units ($4.3m)

100 units ($1.1m)

300 units ($3.2m)

PSH for families

309 units ($9.7m)

50 units ($1.6m)

259 units ($8.1m)

TOTAL

1,929 units ($40.7m)

470 units ($10m)

1,459 units ($30.8m)

 

Permanent Supportive Housing for individuals –  encouraging increases meet 30% of need

The Mayor’s FY19 budget includes funding to end homelessness for 250 individuals through Permanent Supportive Housing, a proven, life-saving housing intervention for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness. This investment represents an increase of 54% over last year’s budget proposal and a slight increase over the 240 units allocated in the Council’s final FY18 budget. i

Unfortunately, the proposed $6 million still falls far short of what is needed to end homelessness for those most at risk of dying without the dignity of a home. According to recent data, approximately 820 individuals need PSH (at minimum). The proposed funding for 250 PSH units meets just 30% of this known housing need.

The Mayor’s proposed increase for PSH is a step in the right direction and, while it’s not enough, it leaves us hopeful that the DC Council can fund the remaining $13.6 million to house an additional 570 individuals in PSH.  

In addition to expanding the PSH voucher program, the Mayor’s budget includes $28 million in capital funding to construct at least 50 PSH units for senior women experiencing homelessness and additional resources to construct 15 new PSH units in another location. These units show marked progress towards addressing the unique needs of single women and seniors experiencing homelessness in DC.

Targeted Affordable Housing - decreases from FY18, meets 18% of estimated need

Targeted Affordable Housing (TAH) provides individuals experiencing homelessness with permanent rental vouchers. It is an essential tool for targeting limited housing resources while ensuring that individuals can move quickly through the homeless services system. The Mayor’s budget proposal includes $1.3 million for TAH for 70 individuals, which is about 30 vouchers less than the amount proposed last fiscal year and 114 units less than what was funded in the Council’s final budget. The Way Home Campaign estimates that at least 400 individuals need TAH, and the Mayor’s budget proposes funding for just 18% of that needWe strongly encourage the DC Council invest an additional $5.9 million to fund 330 additional TAH vouchers.

Rapid Rehousing - increases after 2 years of flat funding meet 12.5% of need

Rapid Rehousing provides individuals experiencing homelessness with time limited rental assistance coupled with along with short-term case management support in locating, applying for and moving into housing.  Significant expansion of RRH for single adults is needed to end homelessness in the District. According to recent data, approximately 800 individuals need Rapid Rehousing. However, given capacity constraints and the slow expansion of the program to date, The Way Home Campaign called on Mayor Bowser to meet just half of this need in FY19, by funding 400 units of RRH. The Mayor’s FY19 budget proposal includes just $1.1 million for 100 additional slots of Rapid Re-housing (RRH) for singles. While this increase is encouraging after two years of flat funding, it falls far short of the known need. We strongly encourage the DC Council to invest an additional $3.2 million to create an additional 300 slots of individual RRH. In addition, we urge Council to ensure that program expansion is accompanied by regulations that require the measurement of housing outcomes and housing stability data.

Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) for families – decreases from FY18, meets just 16% of need

Recent estimates indicate that 309 families currently living in shelter or in Rapid Rehousing need PSH. However, the Mayor’s budget proposes only 50 additional units of family PSH, 67 units less than the Mayor’s FY18 proposal and just 16% of the need. We are disappointed and concerned by this significant under investment in PSH for vulnerable families. We strongly encourage the DC Council to fill this gap by investing an additional $8.1 million for an additional 269 family PSH units.

 

ADDITIONAL INVESTMENTS TO END CHRONIC HOMELESSNESS

To end chronic homelessness, we must augment our housing investments with expanded services and improvements to our crisis response system. One particularly exciting part of the Mayor’s FY19 budget proposal is an increased focus on and significant investments in services and systems improvements to end chronic homelessness for individuals.

Daytime Services/Downtown Services Center – significant funding increases

Since FY16, the DC budget has included $800,000 for a Downtown Services Center. This funding has been used to operate a daytime services center at the Adams Place shelter in NE. For the past 3 years, The Way Home Campaign has advocated for a more centrally located center with a dual focus on connecting people to housing resources and meeting immediate needs. The FY19 budget proposal includes an additional $2 million to expand daytime services - an important step towards ensuring that people experiencing homelessness have a safe, dignified, service rich environment to access during the day. We look forward to working with both the DC Council and the Administration to ensure that expanded services are (1) co-located within a central location, (2) designed in partnership with individuals experiencing homelessness, and (3) align with the vision for improved daytime services outlined in Homeward DC.

Shelter improvements – large capital investments; modest funding increase to address conditions

Modernizing our crisis response and shelter systems is a crucial step towards ending chronic homelessness. While DC has made progress in addressing concerns related to the DC General Family Shelter, we have fallen behind in our commitment to improve conditions of dilapidated and overcrowded shelters for single adults.

The Mayor’s budget proposal includes significant one-time capital investments to improve and replace existing shelter facilities for singles. Specifically, the budget includes $40 million to replace the 801 East Men’s Shelter (DC’s largest low barrier shelter for singles) and $21.5 million to make significant improvements and repairs at other DC shelters, including the addition of 25 medical respite beds and bringing shelters into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Improving these shelters is a strong step towards ensuring shelters are safe, clean, and housing focused.

In addition to capital funding, the Mayor’s budget proposes $200,000 for shelter improvements for singles, which we understand will include the creation of a shelter bed reservation system. While it is encouraging to see such significant investments in improving our single shelter system, we eagerly await information about how these investments will increase health and safety at shelters and/or facilitate exits from homelessness through housing-focused case management. The Way Home Campaign called on Mayor Bowser to invest at least $1 million to improve conditions and services at shelters for individuals and believe that an investment of only $200,000 may not be sufficient to meaningfully improve conditions and housing outcomes at existing shelters during the development of newer facilities.

Homelessness prevention for individuals – first time funding secured!

D.C. currently lacks a comprehensive homelessness prevention program for individuals.  The Way Home Campaign called on Mayor Bowser to invest $2 million to develop a prevention program for individuals at risk of entering homelessness that includes mediation, flexible financial assistance, case management and connection to community resources like Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), employment services, and food/clothing banks.  While we are concerned about proposed cuts to ERAP, we believe it is important to create a prevention program that focuses on and assists people at risk of entering homelessness rather than relying on mainstream resources to address DC’s homelessness crisis. We were pleased to see a focus on homelessness prevention for individuals for the first time in this year’s budget proposal and we encourage the Council to maintain these investments, consider increasing funding based on need, and to consult with individuals with lived experience of homelessness and service providers in determining program eligibility requirements.

Public restrooms - not funded

Every person should have access to a clean and safe restroom. Unfortunately, accessing public restrooms can be difficult for many DC residents, especially individuals experiencing homelessness. Along with our Campaign Partner, the People for Fairness Coalition, The Way Home Campaign called on Mayor Bowser to invest $600,000 for the creation of public restrooms. We hope the Council will fully fund this basic human need by creating two public restrooms in the Downtown area, and that these investments be made in coordination with moving two bills forward that are currently in council: The Public Restroom Facilities Installation and Promotion Act and The Michael A. Stoops Anti-Discrimination Amendment Act. Moving these acts together ensures that individuals experiencing homelessness have access to these restrooms that is free from discrimination.

ADDRESSING DC’S AFFORDABLE HOUSING CRISIS

Nationwide and in DC, a severe lack of affordable housing is a root cause of homelessness. While the Mayor’s budget proposal does include some investments in affordable housing, it falls short of what is needed to meaningfully address DC’s affordable housing crisis over the next fiscal year.

Local Rent Supplement Program (LRSP) – flat funding

The Local Rent Supplement Program (LRSP) provides rental assistance to households in need of affordable housing and provides ongoing subsidies to affordable buildings. The Mayor’s Budget proposal provides no new rental assistance for households on the DC Housing Authority Waitlist or for operation of subsidized units, other than units being redeveloped through the New Communities Initiative. Without increased investments, tens of thousands of DC households will continue to straddle the tenuous line between housing and homelessness. Furthermore, without significant increases, we are concerned that it will be unlikely that additional PSH and other housing for extremely low-income individuals can be constructed through the Housing Production Trust Fund investments. We strongly encourage the DC Council to make robust investments in the Local Rent Supplement Program (LRSP) and to ensure that households facing severe affordable housing crises (primarily households of color) can access safe and truly affordable housing.

Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) – flat funding

The Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) is DC’s main mechanism to create and preserve affordable housing. The Mayor’s budget maintains funding for the HPTF at $100 million, but does not do enough to address the housing needs of DC’s extremely low-income households. Without increased funding for LRSP (discussed above), the HPTF will likely be unable to provide housing to households most in need and will not meet the statutory requirements to use at least 40% of the fund for extremely low-income households.

We cannot end chronic homelessness without investing more in truly affordable housing for DC residents and urge the DC Council to augment investments in affordable housing.

HOUSING INVESTMENTS CRITICAL TO RACIAL EQUITY

Most individuals and families experiencing homelessness in DC are people of color. This is the result of centuries of structural oppression that have prevented people of color from accumulating wealth and accessing quality housing, education, and jobs.

To combat the sustained impacts of systemic racism on the housing market and other systems, we urge the DC government to increase investments in truly affordable housing and proven solutions to ending homelessness.  

WHAT’S NEXT?

The Mayor’s Budget proposal is an important tool for ending chronic homelessness, but it is also a first draft. We now turn our attention to the DC Council in hopes that, through our collective advocacy and that of our partners, they will fill the gaps in the proposed budget and bring us closer to making homelessness rare, brief, and nonrecurring.

The Way Home Campaign calls on the DC Council to focus on housing interventions that end chronic homelessness and invest $30.7 million to house 1,200 individuals experiencing chronic homelessness and 259 families in need of PSH through the following proven interventions:

  • $13.6 million to house 570 additional individuals in PSH
  • $5.9 million to house 330 additional individuals in TAH
  • $3.2 million to create an additional 300 slots of individual RRH
  • $8.1 million to house an additional 259 families in PSH

To push for these vital increases, we need you to join us on April 25th from 9:30-11:00 for a budget briefing at the John A. Wilson Building. For more information and to RSVP, click here.

Ultimately, our work together is not about numbers, but about people, which is why we need you to raise your voice to ensure DC’s growing prosperity is shared by all DC residents. Over the coming weeks there will be opportunities for you to take action with us online, over the phone, and in person as we urge our Councilmembers to invest what is needed to ensure that nobody lives or dies without the dignity of a home in DC.

 

i. For FY18, Council allocated $4.3 million for approximately 274 units of PSH for individuals. Due to changes in the rental market, and subsequent adjustments made at the DC Housing Authority, this amount ended up yielding approximately 240 units.