Save Our Safety Net Takes on Homeless Bill
With unemployment on the rise, an increasing number of homeless persons have migrated to the District seeking aid. However, citing a budget crunch, Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells has proposed a bill that will deny shelter to homeless residents from other jurisdictions. The bill will put an end to D.C.’s open-door policy, which makes it illegal to deny anyone access to a shelter once the temperature drops below freezing. Instead, those who can demonstrate proof of a legal D.C. address within the past two years or a record of receiving public assistance will receive preferential treatment.
Needless to say, groups such as Save Our Safety Net are rightfully outraged. While officials have argued that those denied access would receive help in returning where they came from, the bill’s opponents hold that, as a symbolic home to all Americans, the District should not be refusing anyone. Furthermore, they point out that many homeless have no way of producing proof of residence, particularly those who bounce between D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. If the bill passes, many homeless will find themselves left out in the cold, regardless of their physical condition.
Save Our Safety Net has pointed out that there’s more wrong with the bill than just the residency requirement. The bill jeopardizes family health and safety by removing the limit on the number of families that can be housed in a single room. Also, the cost per client agencies serve will be increased. No doubt D.C. would be setting itself up for more than a few lawsuits.