Monday, December 15, 2014

The status of services and supports for homeless families in DC

On December 10, the Department of Human Services (DHS) issued Progress Report: Family Shelter Restructuring Plan (PDF).   The website summarizes the approach the city is taking to better serve families which are homeless and those at-risk of homelessness, introducing readers to the philosophical, and practical underpinnings of the restructuring plan originally published in 2013.   The report presents the status of the five goals and many more sub-goals presented in the restructuring plan.   Perhaps the most accessible part of the report is the cover, shown below, which highlights key results.   An impressive data point is that 12,000 units of affordable housing have been created or are in the pipeline.

DCFPI has a different take on DHS's progress.   Last week, DCFPI and other organizations released Helping Families Home Roadmap: A Report Card on DC’s Progress in Helping Homeless Families.   Not surprisingly, the advocates criticize DHS and the Gray administration for doing too little too slowly.   Samuels' coverage of the report in the Washington Post, Is the city on track to solve its homeless crisis? Depends on who you ask., presents both sides and both reports.

Where does the truth lie?   The easy answer is somewhere in between.   The more nuanced answer is that the advocates' report would be much stronger if they had objective measures for the grades given.   It also appears as though the report authors did not ask DHS for information.   The phrase "it is not clear" appears seven times.   Does this mean that the authors asked DHS or other relevant agencies for information but received no response?   Or, does it mean that the authors didn't ask and were not proactively told?   Finally, it's important to recognize that the advocates are measuring DHS actions against priorities with which they may or may not agree.   The grades are given not based on the goals of DHS's Family Shelter Restructuring Plan, but rather on the goals laid out in April 2014 byt he coalition.

For sure, numerous issues identified in the DCFPI report require the government's attention.   As is often the case, the government can always do more.

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