Tuesday, May 31, 2016 the DC Council unanimously passed Bill 21-620 to replace DC General with smaller neighborhood short-term family housing across the city and included $59 Million in the FY2017 Capital Budget toward the effort! It is an important milestone in a citywide effort by homeless families, community organizations, citizens, and the media to draw attention to the unacceptable conditions at DC General and to create a better alternative.
“We’re ecstatic about the unanimous vote today,” says Angela Wilson-Turnbull, a member of the Washington Interfaith Network, which has lobbied for three years to close D.C. General. “But we need to preserve all the affordable housing that exists in D.C. today and expand the availability of affordable housing to support our thousands of families in need.” — Read & share the article by WAMU
WIN leaders should be proud of their contributions to raise this issue persistently. WIN has been organizing around issues at DC General since 2013. We sent faith leaders to have one-on-one conversations with families living at DC General and in June 2014 organized a 100-person action in front of DC General demanding improvements be made. During the 2014 Mayor election WIN organized meetings with Mayoral candidates demanding that each commit that if elected they would close DC General and replace it with smaller, community based facilities in their first term. In January 2015, WIN held a 900-person action with newly elected Mayor Bowser in the same week as her inauguration pressing that in the first 100 days of the administration Mayor Bowser appoint a new top team around homelessness and that she re-affirm her commitment to close DC General. With other DC community organizations, WIN pressed to ensure Mayor Bowser’s first budget included $40 million in capital funding to open short-term family housing to replace DC General Family Shelter and a 35% increase in funding for homelessness services. In February 2016, the week Mayor Bowser proposed legislation, WIN organized over 100 leaders from faith congregations and many homeless families from DC General to attend community meetings to say Yes In My Backyard to homeless families. Through May, as the Mayor and council met resistance to many proposed sites, WIN stayed firm attending community meetings, testifying at council hearings, and meeting with council members one-on-one urging them to not get stuck in gridlock but work for compromised and bring the bill to a vote before the end of May.
WIN commends Mayor Bowser for embracing the issue of family homelessness by appointing strong top officials to run the Department of Human Services (DHS), putting forth a bill to close DC General, and fiercely making the argument to close DC General. The leadership of DHS Director Laura Zeilinger and her team has been critical to this effort and will remain critical in the next phase. We also thank Chairman Mendelson and the DC Council for their support of this issue and for ultimately making strong amendments to the bill that resulted in the final bill to close DC General.