For DC's Homeless Families: A Sense of Belonging

Homeless NeighborsDC Mayor Muriel Bowser has recently shown again how committed she is to ending family homelessness in the District when she unveiled her plan to build service-enriched shelters in each of the District's 8 wards.

The shelter project is part of a larger effort captured in the Homeward DC Plan, which aims to make homelessness "rare, brief, and non-recurring" by 2020.

Homeward DC is clear and well laid out. It is a reflection of the strong desire among city leaders to finally rope in homelessness. The steps are concrete and achievable, down to the way new construction and services will be funded.

The plan has put DC among leaders in the nationwide fight against homelessness. The city is backed by a vibrant network of top-notch service providers and committed advocates who are ready to see the job through.

The target year for completion is so close you can actually envision it.

By 2020, we will have developed strong enough systems in DC to catch everybody who experiences homelessness on time, allowing folks to rebuild their lives quickly and effectively with the adequate level of support.

The homeless services system has already been strengthened in the last few years by a coordinated entry network that allows single adults to enter from any of the many homeless services locations in DC.

Well-trained staff and entering participants collaborate on careful assessments using the VI-SPDAT tool.

In turn, the tool gives an accurate reading of the person's needs and makes it possible to formulate placement recommendations ranging from housing without services, to rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing for people with the highest need level.

Providing services at the right level is empowering and cost-effective. It does not foster a dependency on the system. Rather, it ensures that resources are effectively utilized since program participants only get short-term subsidies if that is all they need.

The Mayor's plan is backed by best practices that have bubbled up from direct service providers working closely with participants and advocates.

Each step in its implementation is likely to bring some reservations or even opposition at the neighborhood level. It is up to every one of us to foster a welcoming environment for the families and to give them a sense of belonging.

However, as we share our city more fairly with neighbors who are less fortunate, we make it a better place to live.

For this to happen, Mayor Bowser, the Department of Human Services and the DC Interagency Council on Homelessness need your support to craft a new vision for family services in the city.