October 17, 2022
Top of the morning. It’s Monday.
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☔️ Today's weather: A chance of showers and a high of 65.
📍 Situational awareness: COVID bivalent booster shots are now available at D.C. COVID Centers for children between the ages of 5 and 11.
Today's newsletter is 980 words — a 4-minute read.
1 big thing: D.C.'s homeless encampment plan, 1 year later
A year after D.C. launched a pilot program to clear homeless encampments, approximately 72% of those in the program have been housed.
- Bowser administration officials heralded the program as a housing-first approach, but some advocates for people experiencing homelessness criticized it for merely shuffling them to new encampments.
Catch up quick: The pilot focused on four of the largest encampments — and offered some residents one-year leases with the intention of moving them into permanent housing.
By the numbers: Among the four sites, 100 of the 139 eligible people received leases, according to Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Wayne Turnage. The remaining 39 either opted out of the pilot, no longer reside at the encampments, or are still working with outreach teams to find housing.
Zoom in: Residents were moved from the streets to housing in 86 fewer days on average compared to the city’s normal process, Turnage tells Axios.
Between the lines: Only residents who had been on a list of individuals waiting for housing were offered leases, so the pilot did not account for everyone living within these encampments.
What they’re saying: Christina Giles, 43, lived in a tent for over two years after leaving her marriage. She says that through the pilot she found a transitional apartment and then learned she qualified for Section 8 housing and was able to re-sign her lease and stay in her apartment.
- Previously, “I always thought in survival mode,” she says.
- But now, with rent and utilities paid for, Giles says she plans to grow her natural cosmetics business and spend more time with her grandchildren.
Yes, but: With leases for those in transitional housing expiring in one year, the move into permanent housing has been slow, Adam Rocap, deputy director at Miriam’s Kitchen, one of the two housing providers in the program, tells Axios.
Turnage says that most people within the encampments meet the eligibility criteria for permanent housing and that those not yet transitioned into it will be funded with local money.
2. What happens next for encampments
With the pilot program ending, the city is weighing whether to extend it.
If officials go ahead, they would consider the use of hotels as intermediaries to help get people off the streets even faster in a future program, Turnage says.
- The city says it also wants to be more intentional about pairing people with options that best meet their needs, such as housing with on-site support staff.
The big picture: As for the controversial tent clearings and encampment closures, Turnage says the city will defend them in a forthcoming report by the deputy mayor’s office.
- Clearing tents is defensible for health and safety reasons, not to mention city laws against blocking public spaces, Turnage says.
The other side: Miriam’s Kitchen and Pathways to Housing DC, the CARE housing contractors, tell Axios that they oppose permanently closing encampments because it can be traumatizing for residents. It also creates an arbitrary deadline for finding housing before their tent is cleared.
- One NoMa encampment resident told Axios last year that they weren’t comfortable accepting housing from the city due to a lack of trust as a clearing took place.
Another wrinkle: Two of the four sites in the pilot weren’t actually closed since they were on federal land. Meanwhile, about half of the residents housed came from those two sites. That’s an example of success without clearing tents, Rocap, of Miriam’s Kitchen, tells Axios.
Zoom out: Pathways to Housing’s executive director Christy Respress wants to see more flexibility in signing people up for such a program. Previously, outreach workers visited encampments to add residents to the eligibility list, but some residents who were out slipped through the cracks.
- Respress also wants people to be given more time to choose where to move without a looming encampment closure.
Reginald Black, advocacy director for the People for Fairness Coalition, which is made up of people formerly and currently experiencing homelessness, says any future version of the pilot should be overseen by entities like the Interagency Council on Homelessness — which would include voices of unhoused people, advocates, and other policymakers.
- “There are a number of work groups and committees that should be involved in taking a look at it and help employ the best strategies possible,” Black says.
This article is part of the 2022 Homeless Crisis Reporting Project, in collaboration with Street Sense Media and other local newsrooms. More reporting is published at HomelessCrisis.press.
3. Around the Beltway: A geo bachelor’s defense
Twenty-five percent of public housing units in D.C. are vacant, even as the city faces an affordable housing crisis, per a recent HUD report. Mayor Bowser said she was “embarrassed” by the findings. (Washington Post)
Chris Geldart, who left his job as D.C. deputy mayor for public safety after a gym parking lot spat, defended his living arrangements. Geldart had caught scrutiny over whether he lived in Virginia, but he says he “geo bachelored” by living part-time in D.C. with a friend. (Washington Post)
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine will investigate governors who are relocating migrants to the city. (Axios)
Gender reveal: The National Zoo’s two cheetah cubs are males. (DCist)
4. Pic du jour: The Wiener 500
🏆 The Wharf was packed with canines and humans yesterday afternoon during the annual Dachshund Dash. A pup named Archie took home the champion's cup.
Is a new job in your future?
💼 Check out who’s hiring around the city.
- Operations Assistant at Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC).
- Senior Vice President – Government Affairs & Communications at ACA Connects-America's Communications Association.
- Senior Director Foreign Policy, Global Human Rights and Democracy at McCain Institute.
- Director, Government Relations at National Electrical Manufacturers Association.
- Principal Engineer - Application Security & Strategy Innovation at Wells Fargo.
Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.
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5. 🥓 1 sandwich to go
It’s always BLT season if you want it to be.
Clarendon classic Green Pig Bistro has served what it calls “more obscure cuts of meat in their finest form” since 2012.
- Its dinner menu includes clams with chorizo, French rack pork chop, and stuffed pork schnitzel.
Axios publisher and one-time D.C. editor Nick Johnston recently had the Green Pig BLT for lunch, with a hearty emphasis on the B.
His five-word review: Light and crisp pork belly.
Today's newsletter was edited by Kayla Sharpe and copy edited by Patricia Guadalupe.