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D.C. bill that would reform homeless services system stalls

This new “housing first” bill has tighter residency requirements, which some say are worth additional discussion

This Wednesday, a bill, called the Homeless Services Reform Act (HSRA), stalled in the D.C. Council, as reported by WAMU. The law was drafted over a decade ago and focused largely on ensuring individuals had access to shelter when experiencing homelessness during hypothermic weather.

The newly updated bill establishes more rights for clients in permanent housing programs, clarifies that those that have access to “safe and appropriate housing” are not eligible for shelter, and eliminates and adds definitions for terms, such as “supportive housing” (which is eliminated due to it being too general) and “medical respite services” (which is added as the program did not exist when the original law was drafted).

According to the HSRA document, the Interagency Council on Homelessness previously focused on a “housing ready” approach that expected clients to first address mental health, substance abuse, and education/employment barriers before being offered housing. Now, the focus is being turned to a “housing first” approach, which allows individuals who are homeless to be rapidly connected with permanent housing with additional wrap-around services.

In response to the bill, D.C. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau said it “requires some additional discussion.” WAMU reported that this is due to concerns that the city’s right-to-shelter law serves as a magnet to non-residents, a concern that some homeless advocates say is overblown.

The bill also requires that individuals provide two documents to prove they are a D.C. resident as opposed to the currently required one. WAMU reported that those who are against the bill describe the tighter residency requirements as unnecessary and heartless.

D.C. Councilmembers Robert White, David Grosso, and Trayon White have confirmed that they are interested in voting for an amendment to the bill in order to allow individuals to continue to only have to submit one residency document.

WAMU further reported that White hopes to introduce an additional amendment that will allow those who come out of the rapid rehousing program to have subsidized rent for a period of time afterwards.

The next hearing date for the bill has not yet been scheduled.

Bill Tightening Eligibility Requirements For Homeless Seeking Shelter Stalls In D.C. Council [WAMU]

Homeless Services Reform Act Modernization [Government of the District of Columbia]

Homeless shelter in D.C.’s Ward 4 breaks ground [Curbed DC]

Here's Where the New Homeless Shelters in D.C. Will Be [Curbed DC]