It is with very heavy hearts that we share our Steering Committee member Waldon Adams was killed by a car last weekend. Waldon was a friend, a powerful advocate, and a living testimony that, with housing, anything is possible. Rhonda Whittaker, a member of The Way Home Campaign community and a fierce voice for change, was killed in the same crash. If you attended a Way Home event, chances are you were privileged enough to learn from Waldon or Rhonda.
We are all devastated by this tragedy. Waldon and Rhonda were integral members of our lives and leave behind legacies of kindness, determination, and courage. We hold their friends and families in our hearts.
Amidst our grief, we will continue to honor their life's work by fighting even harder to end homelessness.
Waldon reminded us that we can all be forces for change. He frequently said that "advocacy is caring about something and telling other people you care about it."
Below are three ways to be an advocate for ending chronic homelessness.
1. Email Mayor Bowser
Mayor Bowser will release her budget on May 27th. That means we have just one month to demand she listens to DC residents and invests $100 million to end chronic homelessness for 3,100 households. Click here to send her an email.
2. Read our blog
Over the next month, we will publish blogs about the importance of ending homelessness that dive deeper into our budget priorities. Click here to read our first blog about the importance of Permanent Supportive Housing.
3. Share why you think Mayor Bowser must invest $100 million in her upcoming budget to end chronic homelessness for 3,100 households.
In a pre-pandemic world, we'd ask you to join us for a rally or march to show the Mayor the power behind our movement to end chronic homelessness. Due to COVID-19, we are taking our big advocacy push online. Can you take 5 minutes to share why you support our work? These quotes will be compiled and shared on social media to show the Mayor that we expect a moral budget that focuses on ending homelessness.
P.S. Don't forget to follow us on twitter, instagram, and facebook for campaign updates, action alerts, and more!
DC has the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the country.
The Way Home Campaign Statement of Need for Fiscal Year 2022
The Way Home Campaign calls on Mayor Bowser to invest $96,126,983 to end chronic homelessness for 2,761 individuals and 432 families
The coronavirus pandemic continues to magnify what we’ve long known is true:
1) housing is healthcare
2) housing saves lives; and
3) housing is essential for individual and collective health and wellbeing.
A new study shows that housing for all and eviction moratoriums could have saved 164,000 lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. While these lives and the lives of the more than 74 of our neighbors in DC who died without housing cannot be brought back, they remind us of the urgency to fight for a city where nobody else dies without housing.
Housing justice is essential for racial justice
Addressing DC’s homelessness and affordable housing crises is essential for achieving racial justice. Not only because a staggering 86% of individuals experiencing homelessness in the District are Black, but also because this is not a coincidence. It’s the result of centuries of racist policies that have denied entire communities the ability to thrive. Policy choices, like the ones that create and maintain homelessness, require policy solutions and necessitate governments to step up to meet the needs of the many, not just the privileged few.
You can’t stay home without one
Over the past year, DC residents have been instructed to stay home to stay safe from COVID-19. More recently, Washingtonians were told to stay home in the wake of the insurrection and to avoid the inauguration. But staying home is impossible if you don’t have one. Housing is a human right, not a commodity. With 6,500 unhoused neighbors, we must build a city where everybody has the housing they need to thrive. Even before the pandemic, DC led the nation in homelessness per capita. With national research showing that COVID-19 could increase homelessness by 40% (or by over 2,500 people) in DC, now is the time to double down on our shared commitment to end homelessness, not to cut vital programs.
Mayor Bowser can and must end chronic homelessness
Currently, Mayor Bowser is working to write DC’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget, which will determine how DC spends $16.9 billion budget, which includes our tax dollars. This budget is an opportunity to end homelessness. DC has the resources, the money, and the know-how to ensure that nobody else lives or dies without housing. With bold and strategic investments in proven solutions, DC can show America that we are no longer content to kick the can down the road. Instead, let’s put our money where our mouth is and step up to actually end homelessness. Our ask of Mayor Bowser is simple: end chronic homelessness.
Mayor Bowser has a crucial choice to make in her upcoming budget: save lives by investing in housing or continue to underinvest in the urgent housing needs of our unhoused neighbors.
This year we are calling on Mayor Bowser to:
* End chronic homelessness for 2,761 individuals and 432 families, costing $96,126,983
* Invest in homeless prevention and street outreach
* Address DC’s low-income housing and eviction crisis by investing in widescale rent and utility relief, the Local Rent Supplement Program (LRSP), Public Housing Repairs, and the Housing Production Trust Fund
So, Mayor Bowser, can we count on you to end chronic homelessness and fight for housing justice?
The Way Home Campaign Demands for Fiscal Year 2022
* End chronic homelessness for 3,193 households: 2,761 individuals and 432 families by investing $96,126,983 in Permanent Supportive Housing.
Currently, there are 2,761 individuals in DC who have experienced homelessness for over a year and are living with severe health issues. Without Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), these individuals will likely continue to experience homelessness and are those most likely to die without housing. Additionally, there are 432 families who need Permanent Supportive Housing to exit homelessness. As such, we demand that Mayor Bowser end chronic homelessness by funding Permanent Supportive Housing for 2,761 individuals and 432 families.
* Fund programs to prevent homelessness and ensure that DC continues to have a robust, housing-focused outreach team to best leverage these resources.
In addition to ending chronic homelessness for 2,761 individuals and 432 families, Mayor Bowser must also meet the needs of our neighbors living on the streets and in shelters who may need different levels of support, from short term assistance to the assistance of an outreach worker, to exit homelessness. Beyond meeting the existing needs of this population, Mayor Bowser’s budget must take into account the precipitous increase in homelessness caused by COVID-19. As such, DC’s budget must:
* Fund DC’s robust network of homeless street outreach at least last year’s levels and address other funding gaps as needed.
* Ensure that 1,820 individuals who are experiencing homelessness can obtain housing via short-term assistance, including high-quality, client-centered case management, rental, and other forms of financial assistance and income supports and support with the housing search*,
* Ensure that every person who is at high risk of dying of COVID-19 be offered a placement in a non-congregate shelter, such as the PEPV program, and;
* Expand homelessness prevention and diversion, including Project Reconnect and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).
Increase investments in low-income housing and large-scale rent relief
Ensuring that nobody else enters homelessness is a crucial step to ending homelessness. Not only is it cost-effective, more importantly, preventing homelessness whenever possible wards off the trauma of eviction and stays in homeless shelters and streets. Investing in low-income housing is vital to preventing homelessness. DC has long underinvested in the creation and preservation of low-income housing and this trend must be reversed. To do so, Mayor Bowser must increase investments in:
* The Local Rent Supplement Program (including Targeted Affordable Housing, tenant vouchers, and project/sponsor-based funding),
* The Housing Production Trust Fund and ensure that this money is targeted towards DC’s poorest residents,
* Purchasing or leasing hotels and converting them to humane emergency shelters or deeply affordable housing, and;
* Large scale rent and utility relief and eviction prevention for those impacted by COVID-19 and all DC residents facing eviction.
A “Fair Shot” is only possible if everybody pays their fair share
Mayor Bowser often labels her budget as a Fair Shot. This year, we hope that this commitment is matched with action. A fair shot is only possible when everybody, specifically DC’s wealthiest neighbors and companies, pay their fair share for the collective good. DC has many options to find the money needed to end chronic homelessness, from defunding MPD, increasing taxes, or shifting funding away from non-urgent projects such as the Streetcar. A Fair Shot means that everybody has a chance to thrive, and that must start with housing.
Andrew Anderson, an advocacy fellow at Miriam’s Kitchen and Director of Outreach at the People for Fairness Coalition reminds us that ending homelessness is exceedingly possible. Andrew says, “DC has an opportunity to end homelessness, and this opportunity should not be wasted. If the District can fund the creation of streetcars and millions of dollars on police, we absolutely can invest in housing. Housing is a human right.”
Mayor Bowser releases her budget on April 22nd. Click here for action alerts and stay tuned for ways to ensure that the budget is used to end chronic homelessness and further the cause of housing justice.
This winter will be like no other. In addition to the annual hypothermia season, we expect to see a resurgence of COVID-19, an increase in homelessness and poverty, a tenuous eviction moratorium, and a worsening, often racialized, economic downturn.
So, while we'll continue our yearly advocacy to push for more funding to end chronic homelessness in the Mayor's budget, our additional fall and winter advocacy priorities are more important than ever.
Ending homelessness has never been about a single issue. COVID-19 has reminded us how integral housing is to health and justice, not to mention just how many of our neighbors struggle amidst DC's growing low-income housing crisis.
In the following months, along with our partners, we plan to both lead and support already existing work to:
- Support the leadership of partner organizations and coalitions to stop evictions
- Fight for funding to end homelessness and stop any potential cuts to existing funding
- Ensure DC's COVID-19 response prioritizes the needs of our unhoused neighbors
- Stop homeless encampment evictions and sweeps
- Fix major roadblocks to housing (both from the DC Housing Authority and in the form of discriminatory barriers such as credit checks)
- Demand access to warming centers during the day and safe, socially distant shelter
As always, we'll need your help to achieve these goals! Stay tuned for updates, events, and opportunities to take action (like the one below).
Jesse sent on behalf of The Way Home Steering Committee
The Way Home Campaign Steering Committee is comprised of:
- Community Connections
- DC Fiscal Policy Institute
- Everyone Home DC
- Friendship Place
- Miriam's Kitchen
- National Community Church
- Kevin M Norris*
- Pathways to Housing
- The People for Fairness Coalition
- The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless
- Waldon Adams*
*Expert by experience
Council Budget Update
On Monday, Mayor Bowser released her proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2021. Thanks to your strong advocacy and the advocacy of our 102 partner organizations and over 6,000 supporters, the Mayor's budget will end chronic homelessness for 150 households. While we work to better understand the full scope of Mayor Bowser's proposed budget and its impacts on our overall goal to end chronic homelessness, we wanted to share some quick takeaways and next steps.
Mayor's budget ends homelessness for 150 households
Specifically, the Mayor's budget includes new funding for:
• Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) for 96 individuals
• Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) for 54 families
While a step in the right direction, especially given the financial constraints caused by COVID-19, this amount represents just 7% of The Way Home Campaign's budget recommendation. In the face of a pandemic that continues to prove that housing is healthcare, the Mayor's budget does not go far enough to address DC's urgent housing needs.
The Mayor's budget proposal also cuts funding to homeless street outreach and homelessness prevention, two programs that are especially vital in the context of COVID-19.
Without bold investments from the DC Council, 1,650 households will likely continue to experience chronic homelessness in DC. And, with new reports projecting significant increases in homelessness due to COVID-19, cuts to life-saving services are especially concerning.
The DC Council must make bold investments that put people first
This pandemic reminds us that we cannot thrive collectively until all our neighbors have access to safe and affordable housing. To date, 15 people experiencing homelessness have died from COVID-19. Despite a tough economic outlook, The Way Home Campaign is calling on the DC Council to fill the gaps left in the Mayor's Budget by investing $66 million to end chronic homelessness for an additional 1,650 of our neighbors, fund homeless street outreach, and invest in homelessness prevention. This budget season provides the DC Council with a chance to turn their commitment to equity into action by ensuring that all DC residents pay their fair share to end homelessness and fund other vital human needs
HOW YOU CAN HEP: Two ways to take action!
- Attend a virtual house meeting!
Over the coming weeks, we are hosting virtual house meetings in every ward. If you want to come together with your neighbors to learn and take action to end homelessness, click here. It is a vital time to both connect with and build power with your neighbors and make sure your ward Councilmember is listening to the community needs.
2. Save the Date for our virtual "People's Roundtable to End Homelessness" to be held on the evening of June 22nd.
Stay tuned for additional details and next steps!
We're still digesting the Mayor's full budget and will release a deeper analysis of the Mayor's budget soon. Then, with your help, we'll urge the DC Council to protect the proposed funding and increase investments to ensure every one of our neighbors has the dignity and safety of a home.
We've long known that housing is healthcare, and COVID-19 is a powerful proof point. Like homelessness, COVID-19 disproportionally impacts our Black and Brown neighbors and significantly harms the health of individuals and communities.
Take action to end chronic homelessness
As we speak, Mayor Bowser is writing DC's $15.5 billion budget and determining how to spend your tax dollars. Do you have 3 minutes to urge her to end chronic homelessness for 1,800 households? Despite bleak economic forecasts, ending chronic homelessness is essential for our collective health and must be prioritized in the Mayor's budget. Click here to take action today!
SAVE THE DATE: A People's Budget Roundtable to End Homelessness, June 9
Since we're not able to lobby the DC Council in person, we are hosting a virtual roundtable for community members to share why ending chronic homelessness is important to them. Our Roundtable will be held online, with an option to call in or submit written testimony. Stay tuned for more details!
Below are more ways to raise your voice for housing justice:
- Sign this petition to tell Mayor Bowser to offer COVID-19 testing to all individuals experiencing homelessness and provide them with safe places to stay during and after the health crises. This action is from our partners at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless.
- Contact the Mayor and tell her "don't wash your hands of public housing" and to ensure DC's upcoming budget includes funding for public housing repairs. This action is from our friends at Empower DC.
- Call your Congresspeople and tell them to include funding to address homelessness and the low-income housing crisis in the next COVID-19 relief package. This action is from our friends at the National Low-Income Housing Coalition.
- Tell the DC Council to ensure community input during the Council Budget process. People with lived experience of homelessness are experts and their voices must be prioritized. This action is from our partners at Jews United for Justice.