From The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services
With hypothermia season here, we remain focused on extending a helping hand to our homeless neighbors, and connecting them with resources as soon as possible. This coming weekend, temperatures are expected to dip below freezing, and we need to intensify our outreach to those living on the streets. It is not safe for people to be outside when it gets dangerously cold, and because we firmly believe that we are our sisters and brothers' keepers, we need to stand together and bring them in from the cold.
With regard to the encampment under the Whitehurst Freeway (near Virginia Avenue), our plan is to work with people living there illegally - on an individual basis - to connect them with the resources they need to move into a safe place, and out of the elements. Without bathrooms or running water - or adequate protection from the elements - this area is unhealthy and unsafe for individuals staying there. With this in mind, we have provided 14-day notification of a site cleanup, in keeping with the District’s cleanup protocol.
Today, District agencies will continue to clean encampment sites, and we will continue to provide residents with access to the services they need to get off the streets. We offer an array of services to persons experiencing homelessness – some of which are outlined in our Winter Plan [PDF].
Our work with individuals in the Whitehurst encampment did not start just this week, or overnight. For months, outreach teams from the Department of Behavioral Health and the Department of Human Services have been working with residents of the site to get them the services they need, such as housing services, food and mental health services. Over the last several months, we have helped 14 individuals from the Whitehurst site move into housing. We will provide the same intensity of resources and support to people in encampments that we provide to those living in shelter and in transitional housing, so that all individuals facing homelessness have a pathway to housing. After the encampments are cleaned up and the individuals are supported in their transition to a safer place, we will continue to monitor the sites to ensure that people who may come there in the future are connected in short order to services and shelter.
The District is leading the nation in our effort to make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that residents experiencing homelessness have the resources they need to get back into a place they can call home - from mental health services, to emergency housing, to permanent supportive housing.
The District still has capacity at our shelter sites, and we will make accommodations to ensure that we are able to bring people inside. We also want to make everyone aware of our shelter hotline number: 1(800) 535-7252.
Deputy Mayor Brenda Donald