Greater Greater Washington

Budget


Restoring funds for homeless services makes fiscal sense

Yesterday, dozens of homeless families came to the John A. Wilson Building to take part in the budget process. They asked the DC Council to restore money for homeless services that was cut in Mayor Gray's proposed budget for next year.


Photo by Daquella manera on Flickr.

Their argument was simple: There are more and more kids and parents in our city who have no place to sleep, and without a safe place to rest, our civic ambitions of improving education, getting jobs, and making DC a better city simply can't happen.

Maintaining homeless services is also better for the District's bottom line: While homeless cuts balance the budget now, when winter comes and DC has a legal obligation to house families, we will likely end up spending a lot more.

Since 2008, family homelessness has increased by 75 percent. According to the city's Department of Human Services, 3,187 DC residents in families with children have no home right now. That is up from 2,688 in 2011. This is the fourth year of significant increases.

Demand is up, but our supply of housing and available resources is going down. Mayor Gray's proposed budget has a $7 million gap in funding for homeless services, due to federal funds that will not be available in fiscal year 2013. These funds are needed simply to maintain the status quo from this past year and won't allow the family shelters to remain open year-round. It is in our best interestboth fiscally and as a cityto fund homeless services.

As a city, we can choose to tackle this difficult issue or we can wish that the problem will go away and these families will just find a place to stay. In the end, it's sort of counterintuitive, but "the hope the problem goes away" approach is the more expensive option.

Here's why. The District does not have a legal obligation to house families in warm weather, but when it is hypothermia seasonwhen the temperature dips below 32 degreesthe city is required under law to house families. Last winter, hundreds of families came to the city in need of shelter. DHS expanded capacity at its DC General shelter, bringing total capacity up to 273 families. Yet, that was not enough. The District ended up placing 200 more families in motel rooms on New York Avenue NE, at a cost of roughly $3,000 a month per family.

You read right$3,000 a month. That's why the dozens of homeless families at the Wilson Building yesterday asked the DC Council to put money toward housing. It is the city's less expensive and better option to move these kids and parents toward stability.

As we look to next year, the problem is likely to be worse. Ten to 12 families request shelter each week, but DC will not shelter any newly homeless families until hypothermia season. It is likely that once the shelter opens to new families, the need will again overwhelm existing capacity. DCFPI estimates that if the need for shelter matches that of fiscal year 2012, DHS will need to house up to 296 families per night in motels, at a total cost of nearly $7.5 million.

DC needs a plan to move families out of the shelter and motels and into stable living arrangements. This will free up space to meet emergency need throughout the year and prevent our reliance on expensive motel rooms that do not meet the needs of families. We can improve the lives of these families and the city's pocketbook by making a strategic investment in homeless services. Mayor Gray and the DC Council should fully fund homeless services and move these families and our city forward.

Cross-posted at The District's Dime.

Kate Coventry is a Policy Analyst at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, focusing on a range of issues affecting low-income residents of DC. Her professional background is rooted in working with community-based organizations in the Washington area. She received a BA in sociology from Randolph-Macon Womanís College and a Master of Public Policy from George Washington University.  

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I couldn't agree more, but GGW editors: Please fix the headline. The wording suggests the author wants to restore a funding cut. Better: "Restoring funds to homeless services makes fiscal sense"

I would even add that restoring the funds makes fiscal sense in the long-term. Children who are exposed to stresses like homelessness are more likely to experience emotional and physical problems later in life, and they are then more likely to need additional and very expensive social services.

by TJ on May 1, 2012 4:09 pm • linkreport

I hadn't read the headline that way but I see the point. I've fixed it.

by David Alpert on May 1, 2012 4:44 pm • linkreport

What you don't consider is the moral hazard issue here. If we just provide affordable housing for every low income family that wants it (in one of the most expensive rental markets in the nation) then it will increase demand not only inside DC, but also act as a magnet for similar families all over the region. That will be VERY expensive.

If you do not provide housing during warm weather and make it a hassel during days when the temp drops under 32 degrees, then familes will look for housing outside of the District in cheaper rental markets (or in jurisdictions where there is more affordable housing).

This might sound heartless, but fighting against the huge demand for market-rate housing in the District by spending money to keep people who can't afford to stay in what is rapidly becoming a luxury market, its impossible and wasteful.

by JoanInCH on May 1, 2012 10:27 pm • linkreport

Homeless families rarely vote.

DC government employees almost always vote.

Guess where the surplus went?

by Tom Coumaris on May 1, 2012 11:38 pm • linkreport

@Tom

The Council declined to repay DC employees for the furlough days. Besides, many DC government employees live in Maryland.

by Adam L on May 2, 2012 12:34 am • linkreport

Given that to be a productive member of society, you need to pay for certain expenditures, from housing, heating, food, healthcare, clothing etc.

by Home Decorators Coupon Code on May 2, 2012 2:13 am • linkreport

The problem is that DC has a ridiculous law requiring the taxpayers to foot the bill to shelter any person, for any reason, if the temperature drops below 32 degrees. Any wonder DC is a magnet for the homeless? How about this deal, for every night we the taxpayers give you (adults) in free lodging, you are required to work for 8 hours cleaning up parks, or litter on the streets or any other job that needs doing.

Under the current system, the city picks you up downtown, drives you to a hotel where the city puts you up, then, incredibly, the city drives you back downtown so you can continue to panhandle! No work requirement, no follow-up, nothing. Just a free ride and free room. As broken a public policy as any city has in the country.

How about this, if you are homeless and have no ties to DC (no job, no family, no real reason to be here), the city will buy you a one-way bus ticket to any city in the US?

by dcrepublican on May 2, 2012 8:49 am • linkreport

@dcrepublican: I like your curmudgeonly attitude, and I sympathize with your sentiments. But sending ne'er-do-wells to other cities is an act of war, which DC will lose when those other cities retaliate many times over. Regarding making them work: they are homeless for a reason. Have you actually tried to get something out of these people? It is a fool's errand. If you are really as heartless as you are trying to portray yourself, suggest letting them freeze to death -- it will certainly be effective in scaring the survivors away.

Easy thing to do is provide vouchers.

by goldfish on May 2, 2012 9:16 am • linkreport

1. I kind of doubt that living in a shelter will draw many folks away from cheap apts in PG county - from what I gather shelter living isn't that wonderful

2. I dont think anyone is suggesting creating enough shelters to house all who ask, but more than there are now.

3. some combination of social services - including work, therapy, help with substance issues, etc would be preferable, but is there $$ for that?

4. Are that many of DC's homeless really unconnected to the area? I wonder.

5. The suburban jurisdictions ALSO need to step up to address the regional homelessness problem. I would like to see more posts addressing what they are doing, or not doing, so its clearer that this is not just a DC issue.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 2, 2012 9:24 am • linkreport

The District does not have a legal obligation to house families in warm weather, but when it is hypothermia season—when the temperature dips below 32 degrees—the city is required under law to house families.

I'm curious: what other jurisdictions have such a law on the books? More to the point, which neighboring jurisdictions do?

As @JoanInCH said, "If we just provide affordable housing for every low income family that wants it (in one of the most expensive rental markets in the nation) then it will increase demand not only inside DC, but also act as a magnet for similar families all over the region. That will be VERY expensive."

I think we as a society have an obligation to provide food and a minimum level of shelter for all its citizens. The way to do this is to allocate resources (both financial and facilities) equitably across local jurisdictions: similar to the way we fund WMATA. As it is, DC is providing a very expensive service, not only to the region's homeless, but to suburban MD and VA as well. And that's not good for the city.

There are many issues like this that are essentially national/regional issues, but it's in the best interest of most Americans to make them hyper-local issues: school quality, homelessness, poverty in general, etc... That's because once you make them hyper-local, they're usually someone else's problem. Once you've erected an arbitrary firewall (in the form of a "school district", etc...) suddenly your responsibility for your neighbor miraculously vanishes.

Calling the scandalous regional homeless problem--that DC is forced to address disproportionately--"a DC problem" is like calling hyper-unemployment and poverty in Ward 8 "a Ward 8 problem". Perhaps the wealthy wards of DC should decouple their social responsibilities from the Wards EOTR as the DC suburbs have managed to segregate themselves from their regional responsibilities.

In the current environment, the answer that's "best for DC" is to repeal the law that requires us to provide housing by right and pursue policies that tend to drive the poor and homeless into the suburbs. Obviously that's not the moral option. But having DC disproportionately carry such cripplingly high social and economic costs is not much better.

by oboe on May 2, 2012 9:25 am • linkreport

@oboe -- kvetching that the homeless problem in DC (imagine 5-year old in a pique) "is not fair!" doesn't really solve the problem.

by goldfish on May 2, 2012 9:35 am • linkreport

Arlington has a shelter, Alex has Carpenters Shelter, Fairfax cty has six emergency shelters.

I do not know the legal policies that apply to them.

DC taking on a regional issue has two aspects 1. Do homeless folks from the suburbs drift to DC to take advantage of DC policy - IF thats the case, the obligation on the suburbs to step up is URGENT. Is there evidence to that effect 2. because of the historic concentration of poverty and disadvantage in DC, DC ALSO has more homeless, though those are folks connected to the District - a more efficient and equitable solution, arguably, would be to direct some of the homeless with district roots to shelters in the suburbs instead or at least to have the region share in the funding of district homelessness. That might be controversial. A better solution might be to have more national funds spent to address homelessness. I think we all know what we need to do to move the national discourse in that direction. Those of us who have progressive principles and live in swing states will do what we can.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 2, 2012 9:36 am • linkreport

would be to direct some of the homeless with district roots to shelters in the suburbs instead or at least to have the region share in the funding of district homelessness. That might be controversial.

..and Pearl Harbor was an affront to the national dignity. And Hiroshima was a firecracker. And Hitler was a mean guy. And Stalin told white lies...

by goldfish on May 2, 2012 9:46 am • linkreport

@oboe -- kvetching that the homeless problem in DC (imagine 5-year old in a pique) "is not fair!" doesn't really solve the problem.

I'm not complaining. I'm just saying, DC has the option of tackling a national/regional problem unilaterally and crippling itself financially in the process, or everyone else in the race to the bottom.

(You can actually see this happening, for example, with things like the new TANF deadline rules that were recently modified in DC to bring them in line with MD and VA).

I think AWalkerInTheCity makes some useful suggestions. What I object to is the tendency to say, "Oh, that's a DC problem."

Again, if councilmembers in Wards 1-6 manage to absolve those wards from their social obligation to wards 7 & 8, and have each ward fund their own social services, there'd be universal condemnation. I'm just saying that in the absence of humane federal policy, hyper-local municipalities trying to "fix" the problem is both unfair, and likely to be counterproductive.

Having said that, people need a place to live.

by oboe on May 2, 2012 9:50 am • linkreport

@goldfish,

..and Pearl Harbor was an affront to the national dignity. And Hiroshima was a firecracker. And Hitler was a mean guy. And Stalin told white lies...

Not sure where the snark is coming from here. Anyway, the most likely scenario is that DC will continue to gentrify, and the homeless/poverty/unemployment rates in PG, MoCo, and other places will continue to rise until the poverty load is more equitable.

It's just odd that some folks think that poverty and dysfunction is some sort of endemic characteristic of the District, caused by some moral failing of "the big city", and that the suburbs are largely immune to this because of their virtue.

The suburbs have been largely spared such problems because of historical factors like redlining on the one hand, and intentional design decisions to eliminate things like sidewalks, third spaces, public areas, transit, etc...

The very design of the traditional suburbs is intended to make an existence of suburban poverty untenable. Obviously as close-in areas urbanize, that's going to change.

by oboe on May 2, 2012 9:56 am • linkreport

I think AWalkerInTheCity makes some useful suggestions. What I object to is the tendency to say, "Oh, that's a DC problem."

Just to clarify, I wasn't attributing the "not our problem" sentiment to AWITC...

by oboe on May 2, 2012 9:58 am • linkreport

@oboe: Not sure where the snark is coming from here

Not snark, humor! The thought that sending homeless to other places (seriously suggested by both @dcrepublican and @AWitC) "might be controversial" is an understatement in the extreme. Even you seem to be considering it, in a backhanded way. It blows my mind, as does imagining what their response might be.

You do have a point that this is a regional problem, that unfortunately does not lend itself to regional solutions.

by goldfish on May 2, 2012 10:04 am • linkreport

"Just to clarify, I wasn't attributing the "not our problem" sentiment to AWITC"

Dont worry, I understood.

"Not sure where the snark is coming from here."

I think at my tendency to understatement. "might be controversial"

"The very design of the traditional suburbs is intended to make an existence of suburban poverty untenable. Obviously as close-in areas urbanize, that's going to change."

To clarify once again - poverty is spreading in the suburbs because the natural tendency of housing to depreciate with age has made them affordable, especially the low rise apartments built in the 1970s to (ironically) draw young childless folks who were desirable from a property tax/education cost stand point. I don't know if I would call that "urbanizing". In many cases that involves densification of population, but not of units, as folks squeeze lots of people into small spaces (both in the apt complexes, and in rental houses) Urbanizing in the sense of building denser concentrations of units, is an attempt to offset or overcome that trend - its going just swimmingly in Arlington and (not a suburb) alexandria - for the debate in MoCo we have at least a thread a week here, and for the debate in FFX, look for anything posted by TMTFairfax. Loudoun isnt bothering (much), as its relatively new housing stock, its favorable employment/housing ration, and its location in the favored quarter makes the issue much less urgent. PGs future looks bleak, and PWC, seems to be counting on a combination of new "sprawl" construction, of BRAC based shifts in employment, of state support for VRE, and of its advantage over PG for the fleeing lower middle class, to save it.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 2, 2012 10:12 am • linkreport

More and better services for the homeless will attract more homeless just like more and wider roads attract more vehicles. Or does induced demand not work that way?

by monkeyrotica on May 2, 2012 10:23 am • linkreport

is like calling hyper-unemployment and poverty in Ward 8 "a Ward 8 problem".

Unfortunately, this is how things are often characterized.

WRT the issue itself, isn't most homelessness concentrated w/in major cities and not the suburbs? Although I agree that we can and should do much more, DC isn't alone in trying to deal w/this issue.

by HogWash on May 2, 2012 10:24 am • linkreport

DC has long shouldered the burden of regional homelessness and poverty, simply because DC has THE most liberal policies regarding homelessness and poverty. You show up, we feed you, you’re sick, we offer 100% medical coverage unlike any jurisdiction in the nation to pay for ills (or tattoo removal as has been the case in years past), you are cold, we put you up in a hotel and the best part is, you don’t even have to be a District resident to do so!.

People can wax poetic about “golly gee, DC has an outsized burden”, yeah, well we’ve known that for decades and “knowing” it hasn’t changed anything. You aren’t going to get MD or VA to admit it, or help pay for it.

That leaves the District with solving its own problems, and DC’s biggest problem is that it offers “all carrot, and no stick”.

Step 1. No one deserves to die of exposure. Even the most heartless conservatives in the nation want that. However, that doesn’t mean you get to live in relative luxury in a free hotel room that comes with free breakfast for 6 months of the year on my dime. I’ve seen quite a few shelters in the US and none of them are plush, I don’t know why ours have to be. Many are just big gymnasium sized rooms with army cots in rows and locker room like shower rooms. Keep the people warm and give them a roof over their heads. We have half a dozen closed schools in town that are now sitting empty. How many cots can you fit in a gym, a couple hundred? Or, spend a years worth of hotel bills (7 million) and build a no frills emergency facility. Problem solved.

Step 2 is joining the rest of the nation and putting a 5 year limit on welfare benefits. We are the ONLY jurisdiction in the nation that didn’t put a limit on it, and surprise, surprise, nearly 40% of the cities reciepients have been on it longer than 7 years, nearly a quarter for more than a decade and we wonder why generational welfare in this city seems to be so popular.

by Shelter on May 2, 2012 10:24 am • linkreport

@Shelter: concentrating the homeless in an old school or a large shelter inspires the very definition of NIMBY. For good reason.

The advantage of vouchers is that the homeless can be dispersed, eliminating or at least minimizing the accompanying blight.

by goldfish on May 2, 2012 10:31 am • linkreport

is like calling hyper-unemployment and poverty in Ward 8 "a Ward 8 problem".
Unfortunately, this is how things are often characterized.

I'm curious where exactly you've seen unemployment and poverty in ward 8 called "a ward 8 problem". Certainly not by the residents of other wards. And if so, one need only look at tax revenues raised versus money spent on social services per ward to realize that opinion is an outlier.

WRT the issue itself, isn't most homelessness concentrated w/in major cities and not the suburbs? Although I agree that we can and should do much more, DC isn't alone in trying to deal w/this issue.

I'm sure you're well acquainted with the historical factors that brought that situation to pass. But what's your point? Is it that, because homelessness has tended to naturally concentrate in economically depressed urban cores, that suburban taxpayers should be absolved of responsibility?

by oboe on May 2, 2012 10:47 am • linkreport

@oboe -- I think the reason the homeless gravitate to the urban core has little to do with "historical factors". Rather, they come to built-up areas for much practical reasons, such as: everything is within walking distance; there are lots of passerbys to panhandle; they can get easily obtain intoxicants. These are the features of a "livable and walkable city" that many are striving for, but unfortunately, "it is possible to be too attractive".

by goldfish on May 2, 2012 10:58 am • linkreport

goldfish,

At what cost? DC spends 20-30% more than market rate per unit for subsidized low income housing. Now you want to give every homeless person in the District a voucher? For what? Sounds like a great system that isn't going to incentivize anyone to quit using it.

DC has a serious issue, according to the Examiner today, a full 38% of the District population (232,000 people) are on some form of public asasistance (medicaid, welfare checks or food stamps).

The Districts taxpaying labor force that supports all this is only so large, only ~314K residents are actually employed. It has got to stop.

by Shelter on May 2, 2012 11:00 am • linkreport

@shelter: there is cost, and then there is cost.

We could build a large facility on reservation 13. Besides losing the property taxes from what could have put there, there is also the decrease in property values of the neighboring houses. And worse, the cost of votes when the council member comes up for reelection.

Compared to $3k/month for a hotel, vouchers seem like a better deal.

You have a point that public support should have bounds. I do not have an answer for that.

by goldfish on May 2, 2012 11:10 am • linkreport

@shelter

I thought food stamps was a federal program.

also do you have link for that 38% number - its higher than the number of poor, I think. I wonder if it includes seniors getting SS or medicare.

by AWalkerIntheCity on May 2, 2012 11:15 am • linkreport

@goldfish

do you have any evidence that there significant numbers of people who move from other jurisdictions to be homeless in DC?

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 2, 2012 11:16 am • linkreport

@AWitC: I never made that claim. However, I think it is obvious that compared to the suburbs, there are more homeless in the city.

by goldfish on May 2, 2012 11:19 am • linkreport

Compared to $3k/month for a hotel, vouchers seem like a better deal.

The best thing about vouchers is that it gives the poor the same mobility that other socioeconomic classes have. Providing public housing locks them into one of a few neighborhoods in DC--usually neighborhoods which have sky-high unemployment, concentrated poverty, and few job prospects.

by oboe on May 2, 2012 11:24 am • linkreport

"I never made that claim. However, I think it is obvious that compared to the suburbs, there are more homeless in the city. "

yes, but as the folks who tend to become homeless are those who are already poor, that could well be a result of the, yes, historical concentration of the poor in DC.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 2, 2012 11:29 am • linkreport

@AWitC: People with intact family ties, poor or not, rarely end up homeless for very long -- usually something is worked out. It is the disowned that make up the core of this problem, and such people are not welcomed back into their old neighborhoods.

Imagine that, God forbid, you just lost your apartment and have no place to sleep. You can easily go to the suburbs -- or stay there if you were from there -- particularly since the Metro will take you there. But you probably will not because the homeless life is easier in the city, for the reasons I gave.

by goldfish on May 2, 2012 11:43 am • linkreport

Awalkerinthecity,

All of your questions of me were answered directly in that post.

The examiner: http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/dc-news/2012/05/dc-officials-want-welfare-extension-long-term-recipients/559856

232,000 people are on some form of public asasistance (medicaid, welfare checks or food stamps).

by Shelter on May 2, 2012 12:07 pm • linkreport

I'm curious where exactly you've seen unemployment and poverty in ward 8 called "a ward 8 problem"

Most of the current problems in W8 stem from the systemic challenges w/unemployment and poverty. While these challenges are rarely referred to as a "W8" problem, many of the issues arising from them are. Hence, "until those people in w8...they will never...they deserve the representation they get...etc."

because homelessness has tended to naturally concentrate in economically depressed urban cores, that suburban taxpayers should be absolved of responsibility?

No, my point was what I said it was. DC is not an anomaly when it comes to figuring out "how" to deal with the homeless. I don't know if poverty is concentrated in "financially stable" urban cores nor do I have an example of a city that fits your description. But I do know that major cities attract the homeless. If there's an example of a suburban district that "fairly" pays its share then we should do our best to follow that example. Do you have examples in other similar jurisdiction where this works fairly well?

by HogWash on May 2, 2012 12:18 pm • linkreport

the homeless life is easier in the city

True, but underlying this is the fact that being "homeless" is a failure of social services. No one should be homeless. If a municipality knows that, once one of their families becomes homeless, they have the option of either providing housing, or waiting until that family moves elsewhere with better panhandling opportunities, the incentive to do the latter is pretty great.

by oboe on May 2, 2012 12:26 pm • linkreport

DC has a serious issue, according to the Examiner today, a full 38% of the District population (232,000 people) are on some form of public asasistance (medicaid, welfare checks or food stamps).

The Districts taxpaying labor force that supports all this is only so large, only ~314K residents are actually employed. It has got to stop.

This is a bit misleading. The number of residents who receive welfare checks is about 8%. What the city should do is be more aggressive in ensuring that recipients adhere to the guidelines and get them back to work.

The assumption that all food stamp recipients/medicaid don't work or pay taxes has long been found to be incorrect.

Then we must remember the elderly.

by HogWash on May 2, 2012 12:35 pm • linkreport

Most of the current problems in W8 stem from the systemic challenges w/unemployment and poverty.

One could argue that the current problems in W8 *are* unemployment and poverty. They're not symptoms of a greater problem, but the problem itself.

No, my point was what I said it was.

You said, "WRT the issue itself, isn't most homelessness concentrated w/in major cities and not the suburbs? Although I agree that we can and should do much more, DC isn't alone in trying to deal w/this issue."

Ok, so your point is that "most homelessness is concentrated in cities and not the suburbs", but I'm not sure that's news to anyone. The question is, "Why? And how to we prevent a 'race to the bottom' in addressing the issue?" There are plenty of things that cities can do to address the problem of the homeless by making themselves less attractive to homeless people. A better course would be to put in place policies at the regional (or *gasp* national) level to mitigate homelessness and poverty in general.

There seems to be an unexamined consensus that "that's the cities' job, because cities are where homeless people end up". I'm just pointing out that such an arrangement isn't inevitable.

by oboe on May 2, 2012 12:40 pm • linkreport

I can't find that factoid on the dept of Human services page, and I do not trust the Examiner. Any other source that makes it explicit that its only those three programs?

kaiser family foundations says 23% of dc residents on medicaid in 2009-2010. are there really 15% of DC residents who qualify for food stamps or TANF who do not also qualify for Medicaid?

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 2, 2012 12:43 pm • linkreport

"There seems to be an unexamined consensus that "that's the cities' job, because cities are where homeless people end up"."

This blog has very good coverage of transportation and zoning issues in the suburbs, but virtually all posts relating to social service delivery are by activists in DC, who naturally focus on DC govt policy, which tends to get us wrapped up in this issue. In fact social service delivery is an issue in the suburbs, and nationally. I'm not about to write a contribution on those, and I won't complain about a free blog, but I don't think anyone who is supportive of a non-libertarian approach to poverty really prefers that it be addressed locally rather than nationally.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 2, 2012 12:49 pm • linkreport

One could argue that the current problems in W8 *are* unemployment and poverty. They're not symptoms of a greater problem, but the problem itself.

Which is why I used the verb stem to describe how the current problems stem from unemployment and poverty. Ex. crime and vice.

Ok, so your point is that "most homelessness is concentrated in cities and not the suburbs

Yes.

, but I'm not sure that's news to anyone.

It's not. Neither is the idea that the suburbs (regional and state) shouldn't do more to adequately address the issue..lessening the burdens on major cities. This isn't news.

I can't find that factoid on the dept of Human services page, and I do not trust the Examiner. Any other source that makes it explicit that its only those three programs?

Neither could I and the lack of sources w/in the examiner article should raise an eyebrow or two.

by HogWash on May 2, 2012 1:11 pm • linkreport

I don't think anyone who is supportive of a non-libertarian approach to poverty really prefers that it be addressed locally rather than nationally.

Perhaps here on GGW. But in national politics we seem to have reached a consensus that "more local is better". Which is basically a recipe for economic apartheid (just as we've seen with public education in America).

by oboe on May 2, 2012 1:12 pm • linkreport

"The assumption that all food stamp recipients/medicaid don't work or pay taxes has long been found to be incorrect."

Good point.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 2, 2012 1:13 pm • linkreport

"Perhaps here on GGW. But in national politics we seem to have reached a consensus that "more local is better". Which is basically a recipe for economic apartheid (just as we've seen with public education in America)."

I think the people driving that are folks who (whether they admit it or not) DO have a libertarian approach to poverty. The use of block grants of course continues federal financing, though enabling right wing jurisdictions to use the funds (improperly) for other purposes. There is continued resistance to block granting further programs, AFAICT, so Im not sure I would call it a national consensus. I would say that on increasing the EITC, health care reform, the national minimum wage, the use of payroll tax cuts as a stimulus measure, there is a clear difference in approaches to incomes and poverty in the national discourse.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 2, 2012 1:18 pm • linkreport

Isn't the purpose of social services for the homeless to lift those people out of homelessness eventually? If the number of homeless has risen significantly since 2008, it begs the question whether our social services are really doing what they ought to be doing, and then, why we are funding social services that don't seem to work.

by Scoot on May 2, 2012 1:19 pm • linkreport

because you know nothing in particular has happened since 2008, that might account for a rise in poverty and homelessness, right?

ANyway, food stamps arent designed to lift people out of poverty, they are designed to keep people from going hungry, medicaid is to provide medical care. Shelters are to keep people from living exposed to the elements. education, training, and related services MAYBE could lift people from poverty, but they have to offset a changing labor market that pushes in the other direction.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 2, 2012 1:26 pm • linkreport

It's not. Neither is the idea that the suburbs (regional and state) shouldn't do more to adequately address the issue..lessening the burdens on major cities. This isn't news.

Okay, so then what's your point? My point is that just saying "that may be unfair, but DC taxpayers must make up for any shortfall by the larger society" is not sustainable.

The original piece was arguing that we need to restore the money cut from homeless services because we are legally obligated to house any of the region's homeless for much of the winter time. This argument was based on the premise that it would save DC taxpayers money.

But obviously we could save much more money by making DC inhospitable as possible to homeless people. Which is the course most municipalities around the country have taken.

Do I think that's the optimal strategy to deal with homelessness? No. But nor do I think the strategy of "DC taxpayers will take care of the region's homeless and poor so the suburbs can free up money to spend on aquatic centers and wonderful schools" is sustainable either.

I don't have some neat solution to the whole mess, but I find the assumptions that underlie these discussions pretty galling at times.

by oboe on May 2, 2012 1:28 pm • linkreport

The "232,000" stat was used in an examiner article previously:
http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/dc/2011/11/city-limiting-funding-welfare-recipients/119973

Only 8% of those 232,000 are on TANF.
140,000 people are on SNAP (food stamps) in DC: http://frac.org/reports-and-resources/snapfood-stamp-monthly-participation-data/

I would not be surprised if that 232,000 number includes more than just TANF, SNAP, and Medicaid.

by MLD on May 2, 2012 1:30 pm • linkreport

+1 monkeyrotica. LOL. Where have you been?

by goldfish on May 2, 2012 1:32 pm • linkreport

"More and better services for the homeless will attract more homeless just like more and wider roads attract more vehicles. Or does induced demand not work that way?"

A road that provided the kind of driving experience comparable to the living experience provided by a shelter, would not receive AASHTO approval and would be a candidate for reconstruction.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 2, 2012 1:41 pm • linkreport

"Okay, so then what's your point? My point is that just saying "that may be unfair, but DC taxpayers must make up for any shortfall by the larger society" is not sustainable."

isnt it? DC paid its TANF, social services, etc during 2011. When 2012 comes to a close, DC will likely have more tax payers, more taxable property, etc. Just as it had more in 2011 than in 2010. unfair, that may be, but its not unsustainable. The change advocated by the original post will involve a small change in the DC budget, one that will be offset be reduced motel room costs, according to the poster.

Not everything bad is unsustainable.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 2, 2012 1:46 pm • linkreport

If the number of homeless has risen significantly since 2008, it begs the question whether our social services are really doing what they ought to be doing,

It's hard to make that argument when we are still climbing out of (cue violins) the worst recession since the great depression. I don't know of any city whose "needy" rates have decreased since 2008.

Okay, so then what's your point? My point is that just saying "that may be unfair, but DC taxpayers must make up for any shortfall by the larger society" is not sustainable

I don't get what you're confused by. You made one point..I made another. Don't understand why my point has to "make sense" when both of ours is common knowledge. If you go back and read, you'll see that I didn't dispute your point nor suggest that you really didn't have a point.

But nor do I think the strategy of "DC taxpayers will take care of the region's homeless and poor so the suburbs can free up money to spend on aquatic centers and wonderful schools"

I've never read anything from anyone supporting such strategy.

by HogWash on May 2, 2012 1:50 pm • linkreport

Not everything bad is unsustainable.

True, of course. But when I said "sustainable" I was thinking of political will rather than fiscal capability.

by oboe on May 2, 2012 1:54 pm • linkreport

But nor do I think the strategy of "DC taxpayers will take care of the region's homeless and poor so the suburbs can free up money to spend on aquatic centers and wonderful schools"
I've never read anything from anyone supporting such strategy.

Sigh. It looks like my point wasn't as obvious as I'd hoped. At the risk of beating a dead horse: You're unlikely to read anything explicitly supporting such a strategy--it's the status quo.

by oboe on May 2, 2012 1:58 pm • linkreport

"Not everything bad is unsustainable.
True, of course. But when I said "sustainable" I was thinking of political will rather than fiscal capability"

okay. has the political discourse in DC shifted toward reducing social services? I can see the newcomers changing the approach to education back to what it was under Ms Rhee, but shifting to reduced homeless services, etc? Not my impression. Tommy Wells represents the "new DC" as much as anyone, I guess, but I've never heard that he wants to reduce social service spending and "let em go to the suburbs". Of course I have difficulty understanding DC budget politics, where CM Barry berates others for not giving money to DC employees, than votes against it himself.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 2, 2012 2:02 pm • linkreport

because you know nothing in particular has happened since 2008, that might account for a rise in poverty and homelessness, right?

So what happens when the recession is over? Has the Council thought of its next excuse yet? You can peg the rise in homelessness on the recession, or you can simply acknowledge that DC has a homelessness crisis unique to large American cities (rather striking considering the relative strength of the regional economy since the recession began).

There are actual programs that lift people out of homelessness. They have worked in cities like San Fransciso, Vancouver, Portland, Denver, Chicago and New York. And then there are programs that just give people a place to sleep. Maybe someone can tell me which side of the aisle DC is on, and why those services are still considered to be 'untouchable' in their current state by the Council?

As the author notes, "we can improve the lives of these families and the city's pocketbook by making a strategic investment in homeless services."

Precisely...the key word is 'strategic' -- yet in its endorsement, the article does seem willing or able to actually examine whether the homeless services currently in place actually do anything to "move these families and our city forward." Just something to think about.

by Scoot on May 2, 2012 2:19 pm • linkreport

@scoot

your earlier post did not look like a "NYC does it better" to me (or apparently to MLD) but a "social services are bad" post.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 2, 2012 2:27 pm • linkreport

Not my impression. Tommy Wells represents the "new DC" as much as anyone, I guess, but I've never heard that he wants to reduce social service spending and "let em go to the suburbs". Of course I have difficulty understanding DC budget politics, where CM Barry berates others for not giving money to DC employees, than votes against it himself.

You could be right, but I don't think things will be quite so explicit. More likely tighter eligibility requirements will be imposed. In the last year, we saw Wells push through a residency requirement for folks seeking spots in non-emergency homeless shelters.

Taking a broader view, DC's TANF deadline was recenty brought in line with DC and VA (though that's now up in the air). More and more public housing projects have been shuttered in lieu of vouchers and mixed-income projects (where "affordable" units have gone to households making up to $80k).

So it's not a matter of "busing undesirables out to the burbs", but rather bringing DC's policies more into line with that of surrounding governments. Obviously, the more neighborhoods in DC that become gentrified, the more potential for proximity and conflict between middle-class homeowners and shelters/public housing/etc.. and the "crime and vice" (as HogWash put it) that are endemic to them.

by oboe on May 2, 2012 2:29 pm • linkreport

your earlier post did not look like a "NYC does it better" to me (or apparently to MLD) but a "social services are bad" post.

I suppose we see what we want to see. I never said or even suggested that social services in general were bad -- only that they don't seem to be bad as implemented for this city and should, for that reason, be more closely examined instead of blindly funded year in and year out.

by Scoot on May 2, 2012 2:34 pm • linkreport

^ *do* seem to be bad as implemented for this city....

by Scoot on May 2, 2012 2:35 pm • linkreport

@Scoot:

DC has a homelessness crisis unique to large American cities (rather striking considering the relative strength of the regional economy since the recession began).

Yes, but there's a bit indirection going on here. The "regional economy" has very little to do with "DC homelessness" (or DC joblessness, or DC poverty in general)?

DC's homeless and chronically unemployed aren't just waiting for the right DHS contract to come along. And the success stories who make it through school and into the larger middle-class job market overwhelmingly go on to contribute to MD and VA's positive employment numbers.

by oboe on May 2, 2012 2:36 pm • linkreport

So what happens when the recession is over? Has the Council thought of its next excuse yet?

I don't think many people would reasonably surmise that the rise in homelessness in DC (and around the country) is not directly linked to the recent recession. Not sure why you think the council, which is not responsible for causing homelessness, is making excuses. It's a well-known fact.

You can peg the rise in homelessness on the recession, or you can simply acknowledge that DC has a homelessness crisis unique to large American cities

It's not a matter of what my opinion is on the matter. What the facts point out is. And the facts back up my assertion that the rise is due to recession..unless there's some other force in play (here in DC) that has catapulted our n'bors into homelessness.

And unless I'm posting to the wrong article, my first statement here was wrt to how DC (because it's a major city) is not an anomaly when it comes to dealing w/the challenges of its homeless population.

There are actual programs that lift people out of homelessness.

Are you saying that no such program exists in DC or that there aren't any homeless people in SFO, ORD and NYC?

by HogWash on May 2, 2012 2:50 pm • linkreport

I don't think many people would reasonably surmise that the rise in homelessness in DC (and around the country) is not directly linked to the recent recession.

I don't doubt that there is a link between homelessness and the recession (I never surmised otherwise); however, I perceived that the responses to my posts implied recession was the primary contributor to the rise in homelessness, as it was the only cause provided to explain the striking statistics presented to us). Sadly, that does not reveal the entire scope of the problem, and ignores DC's striking homeless epidemic comparable to other cities.

Are you saying that no such program exists in DC or that there aren't any homeless people in SFO, ORD and NYC?

Since the latter suggestion would be laughably ridiculous, the former is all that's left -- and yes, I don't doubt that such a program does or could exist in DC, but I wonder whether the most amount of money is being invested in the least successful programs because so few people with an ability to take a closer look, actually are. But it's not a matter of what my opinion is on the matter.

by Scoot on May 2, 2012 3:14 pm • linkreport

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