Three Years of Progress in Reforming DC’s Family Homeless Services System
In 2016, Mayor Bowser launched an eight-ward strategy to close DC General as soon as possible and open smaller, service-enriched, community-based, Short-term Family Housing programs throughout the District in its place. This strategy is a critical piece of Homeward DC, the District’s strategic plan to end homelessness, and is also a promise to end a troubling chapter in the history of homeless services in the District and reaffirm our commitment to families.
As a community, I know we all share in the vision and responsibility to finally serve families experiencing homelessness in an environment designed to support them and help them thrive.
One Goal: Making it Easier for
All Residents to Call DC Home
Deja Owens, a single mother, moved to DC from North Carolina in the hopes of providing a better life for she and her family. After experiencing financial hardship, Deja and her son took shelter in their car and, at times, began couch surfing with family and friends willing to share their homes. While experiencing homelessness, Deja visited the Virginia Williams Family Resource Center (VWFRC) to request emergency shelter.
After several months of living in shelter, Deja signed the lease to her new apartment. She was one of the 60 families experiencing homelessness joining Mayor Bowser, E&G Group — a local real estate development and consulting firm, the Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH), and the DC Department of Human Services (DHS) for a lease signing event in Southeast DC.
What’s New with the District’s Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program?
After a year of engagement and funding debates, DC has a Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) policy we can be proud of. One that is serving the whole family by keeping more money in the home and eliminates arbitrary time limits regardless of how long the family has been in the TANF program. The new and improved TANF program also provides better employment supports to help families get a job, complete an educational program, receive a promotion, and ultimately exit public benefits.
HOW WE GOT HERE
Three years ago, the District’s TANF policy anticipated a 60-month time limit and focused on immediate job placement at the expense of helping customers meet their long-term goals.
“Home for the Holidays” 2017 Campaign and Other DC Initiatives Strikes Chord
with DHS Intern
As an intern for DHS, I’ve learned a lot throughout my time here.
On my first day, I spent hours reading about programs that DHS offers for residents who are eligible for cash, food and housing assistance. Now, of course this doesn’t sound like the most fun project, but it was crucial to my DHS education because it provided knowledge about resources that people need. Programs such as: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and many more resources that support thousands of people every day.
Most of my family is from D.C., but before coming to intern for DHS I had no clue about the resources available to those in need. I grew up in the suburbs of Maryland was never exposed to the extent and devastation of homelessness and poverty.
After reading all about the programs that D.C. had to offer, I could not wait to become a part of the solution.
In November 2017, Mayor Muriel Bowser launched the “Home for the Holidays” 2017 campaign to house 400 households experiencing homelessness in D.C. At the end of this campaign, 422 families and individuals were housed, surpassing the goal of DHS and the Mayor.