The latest in the ongoing charade perpetrated by DC Mayor, Muriel Bowser. Contrast this story appearing in The Washington Post with The Mayor's recent press conference touting her bold plan to end homelessness and provide affordable housing to homeless families. http://goo.gl/wFtcgF Do the math Muriel, the numbers don't add up. The AMI or Average Median Income in DC is $107,300. The bottom tier for families is 30% of AMI to qualify. Which of these 730 indigent families do you think will qualify? This is a cruel joke and no different than any other "affordable housing" scam perpetrated by the DC city government. Will people be housed? sure they will as long as they make enough money to meet the requirements. What about those who don't? What does affordable housing mean to someone living on the street? Oh, excuse me, Muriel's plan includes 83 spaces for single men or women who are currently homeless. That will put a big dent in the 7,000 plus individuals living on the street. Shame on you Muriel Bowser.
For the past week, a particularly tragic and entirely preventable drama has unfolded in Washington, DC involving an encampment of some 60 people who are homeless. Ironically many of the tents being used and later destroyed by DC Waste Management were donated to homeless persons by a former DC Waste Management employee, but that's another story. This particular encampment sprung up within view of the Watergate Apartments and offended the sensibilities of the residents who complained to the city to do something about this unsightly and unsanitary encampment. You can see for yourself in the photo above just how unsightly and horrible this was to look at. Mayor Muriel Bowser was quick to respond that the matter would be taken care of. I cannot begin to capture the chronology of this fiasco nearly as well as the staff from StreetSense. So follow this link for the complete story along with photos and interviews.
Mayor Bowser's Deputy Mayor was sent to do the dirty work of evicting these people and becoming the face of DC's inhumane treatment of its homeless citizens. She repeatedly asserted that shelter space was available and "the people who were homeless had options." That statement, in its simplicity, speaks to the insanity of the policy towards the thousands of unsheltered men and women living on the streets in DC. The shelters as they are currently maintained are dirty, bed bug infested, dangerous places where one is likely to be robbed, assaulted and left with none of the possessions you once had. Can anyone be surprised that living in a clean and well cared for tent is preferable? The Mayor and her army of behavioral health specialists don't seem to get this. Perhaps they don't actually talk to people who are homeless to find out why they live on the street. Have a look at a few of my photos from the " Invisible One's of Washington, DC" project. That will get you in the right frame of mind. Then read a few of their stories and note the ones that prefer to live on the streets because the shelters are so terrible.
If Mayor Bowser really wanted to end homelessness in Washington, DC she could have and would have stopped the arbitrary destruction of this tent encampment that was harming no one. Instead, just as the nighttime temperatures were dropping to below freezing, people who were homeless were given the choice to go to an undesirable and dangerous shelter or be on the street. Instead, the Big Lie is perpetuated, promises are broken and people who are homeless are once again on the streets. Why is no one asking the Mayor about spending the money necessary to ensure clean, safe and adequately supervised shelters for the thousands of men and women on the streets of Washington, DC. Why are parcels of land and city-owned buildings sold to the highest bidding developer rather than repurposed for shelter space. I have long felt that the answer to this question is quite simply, people who are homeless are invisible. They have no voice, they are no one's constituents, they do not vote, they do not donate to political campaigns and they are considered as "less than." Until that mindest changes in the city administration, the Big Lie will continue as public policy.
It's been over a month since I posted anything here. It's not as though all is just fine and dandy with respect to the thousands of women, men, and children living without shelter on the streets of Washington, DC. The truth is that the Mayor is busily trying to dismantle the HSRA by legislating changes that would in effect make being in shelter housing more difficult. DC's homeless advocates are opposed to this plan. In addition, Mayor Bowser in her efforts to close the large family shelter at the former DC General Hospital is moving families with children to mold and rat infested housing in the city. All part of the Mayor's plan to end homelessness in DC while she sells off valuable, city-owned real estate to developers that could and should be used to build housing for the homeless.
That being said the focus of this post is to draw attention to a recent incident involving Charles Purcell, a gentleman who himself is homeless as well as an advocate for the cause. Earlier this week Mr. Purcell was forced to leave a McDonalds in DC because another patron had mistakenly identified him to the manager as a homeless panhandler. If fact, Mr. Purcell was minding his own business, eating a breakfast he had purchased. His attempts to reason with the manager were met with disrespect and insistence that he leave the restaurant immediately. Mr. Purcell complied with the order to leave. Had he not, I have no doubt that he would have been arrested for trespassing. Here is Mr. Purcell's recounting of this incident on his Facebook page
Every day in my city people who are homeless
This week our Mayor, Muriel Bowser, proves once again that any city owned property can be had by a developer if the price and the politics are right. You can read the specifics of this sell out deal here. On the surface it's difficult to argue that the 10 million dollars earmarked for the poorest and most neglected Ward of the city is a bad thing. The proof of that blood money arrangement has yet to be worked out beyond some pie in the sky dream of Ted Leonsis to transform Ward 8 into a economic boomtown. What Ted gets and what Ward 8 will be stuck with is another monument to professional sports extravagance couched in the idea that watching wildly overpaid athletes play basketball will be inspiring and transformational for underprivileged and at risk youth.
7,298. That is the number of men & women who were living without shelter in Washington, DC during the last point in time count of the homeless done earlier this year. The city owned property that Mayor Bowser will sell to the developer to build yet another trifling sports venue (see DC United Soccer Stadium) could easily have been converted to city owned and operated housing for men, women and families who are homeless. Instead the city will continue to house families in motels at city expense and leave single men and women to fend for themselves in the decrepit and dangerous city homeless shelters. Yet the Mayor, at every opportunity reaffirms her commitment to end homelessness in DC. What a total hypocrite she is. Shame on you Muriel Bowser. The other big winner in this sell out aside from Ted Leonsis is Ruby LaMay. the Mayor's handpicked puppet who narrowly won the Ward 8 council seat. She will most certainly take credit for bringing this latest high profile trifle to her community. I can only hope the voters see this for what it is.
A recent media event to address the city's out of control homicide rate orchestrated by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser was effectively shut down by community activists who believed the solutions proposed by the Mayor were woefully inadequate to address the root causes of the rising crime rate in the city. Read more about the event here. In spite of the Mayor having packed the room with her supporters she was forced from the stage and had to conduct the press conference in a back hallway away from the angry crowd. The Mayor as she so often does demonstrated her cluelessness about what matters most in the District of Columbia. Her solution to the chronic disenfranchisement of a large portion of DC's population is to flood the city with more police, security cameras and her favorite high profile media event known as "all hands on deck" a massive feel good event that requires virtually every sworn police officer to be on the street for one weekend. This event is publicized well in advance to maximize media coverage and of course ensures that the bad guys will stay indoors for that period of time. The police union and most citizens see this for the media stunt that it is. Mayor Bowser when she was a city council member, along with others, presided over the rapid gentrification of DC. Most DC citizens will agree that economic development and prosperity are good for the city. The problem is that large numbers of DC residents are being left behind with little or no hope of participating in the prosperity that is promised by gentrification. Any sociologist worth their salt will tell you that this kind of gentrification has an ugly downside. That is what we're seeing in DC. Instead of addressing the pervasive social and economic disparity that is driving the current crime wave, Mayor Bowser is deploying a massive temporary band aid that cannot remain in place because it is not sustainable. Once it is removed, the ugly wound will be in full view once again. The Mayor has no plan to address the root causes of this crime wave. Press conferences and high profile media events served her well when she was campaigning. Now , not so much! There is a lyric from a Stevie Wonder song that is particularly appropriate here - "You Haven't Done Nothing"
We are amazed but not amused by all the things you say that you'll do. Though much concerned but not involved with decisions that are made by you.
The people of the District of Columbia deserve so much better than this. Hopefully the Mayor can remove herself from her echo chamber of supporters long enough to contemplate why she was shouted down and driven from her own press conference.
Just when I thought that some progress was being made in the struggle to prevent cities from criminalizing people who are homeless this ugly incident rears it's head in my own back yard. First the good news, see this story about the US Department of Justice becoming involved in a case that resulted in a court finding that "It’s unconstitutional to ban the homeless from sleeping outside."
I guess Muriel Bowser, the current Mayor of Washington, DC didn't get the memo. What you'll see in this local news report video is a real life example of criminalizing the homeless. Making matters worse the police are being accompanied by a Deputy Mayor who apparently sees this as a great photo opportunity and a way to appease the well to do residents whose sensibilities are offended by having to see people who are homeless from their balconies. This exemplifies the hypocrisy of Mayor Bowser's campaign promises to end homelessness in the District of Columbia. This small group of homeless persons were doing nothing more than finding a place to sleep outdoors rather than risk their personal belongings and safety by staying in one of the city's notoriously dangerous shelters. For the administration to publicly say that, these people should stay in a shelter rather than sleeping outdoors, speaks to a level of ignorance about the shelter system in DC that is nothing short of astounding. I would challenge the deputy mayor to spend one night at the 2nd & D Street shelter without her security detail. She wouldn't be there for 15 minutes.
This city administration like administrations before it talks the talk about their profound commitment to ending homelessness. Yet their behavior speaks volumes about their intentions. Removing these few people from their makeshift shelter home in facts puts them back on the street to sleep in doorways, on park benches and wherever else they can find a spot sheltered from the elements. Shame on you Muriel Bowser. My fondest wish for you is that the Department of Justice takes you to task for this gross violation of the Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. You of course will hold a press conference defending your undying commitment to ending homelessness and assure the public that shelters are safe and readily available. Why then Mayor Bowser, do you think that hundreds of people who are homeless sleep outside. Think about that!
A sad and poignant piece of journalism appeared in today's Washington Post. See that here It is indeed tragic that Alfred Postell's life spiraled out of control after he became seriously mentally ill and ended up living on the streets of Washington, DC. While the Post deserves credit for calling attention to the plight of the homeless/mentally ill, this in my opinion is not the story that needs to be told.
As anyone who knows me or follows my photo project "The Invisible Ones" can attest, I spend a fair amount of time interacting with the homeless living on the streets of Washington, DC. One of the dominant themes running through my conversations with these folks is why do you sleep outdoors when you can go to a shelter? Over and over again the answer is the same, "the shelters are dangerous places where you will be hurt and your things will be stolen. At least I am safe outdoors." The reporter for the Post did not ask Mr. Postell why he chooses to sleep in front of a building. I'd bet big money that I know the reason. Most certainly the police know the reason as well, yet they will arrest Mr. Postell and others like him for the crime of needing a safe place to sleep - sorry, they call that trespassing in DC. I have repeatedly heard the argument that being in jail is at least a safe place, where one is fed and sheltered. As a factual matter, there is no worse environment for a mentally ill person then a jail cell. I know because I worked for eighteen years in a maximum security county jail where our in house mental health program was tasked with managing the mentally ill who were arrested in Fairfax County, VA. The Courts in DC know this as well, yet insist they can't do anything about it. Criminalizing the homeless/mentally ill is a pervasive problem throughout the United States.
Cities are finding more and more creative ways to drive the homeless out of town. One such tactic employed by 33 cities at last count is making it a crime to feed the homeless. To say this is shortsighted doesn't even begin to capture the stupidity of these ordinances and serves to further dehumanize the homeless, likening them to rodents that need to be deprived of food so they will look elsewhere.
Here in DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser has $145 million dollars allocated to deal with the problem of chronic homelessness. There has yet to be a plan announced to divert the homeless/mentally ill from the city jail and into supportive treatment and permanent housing. Ironically there are plans underway to close shelters and put more people at risk as we approach the coming cold weather in just a few months. Surely we as one of the wealthiest countries on the planet can do better than this.
Apparently not if the Museum Square project is any indication. See the link for some history. This is a tragic story on many levels made more so by the office of DC's newly elected Mayor, Muriel Bowser, more on that later. More than half of the residents of this 30 year old building on the edge of DC's Chinatown are the last of DC's Chinese population that once lived, worked and thrived in a vibrant Chinese neighborhood that has since been taken over by chain restaurants like Hooters and Fuddruckers. Affordable housing has disappeared being replaced by high end apartments and condos. The other residents of the building are an ethnically diverse group that shares the need to maintain affordable living space in the city. The owner and developer, The Bush Companies of Virginia have given notice that they are ending the subsidized housing program with HUD and will demolish the building making way for an expensive mixed use residential/commercial building. Before they can do that they are required by law to offer to sell the building to the current tenants. The developer has calculated that each unit is worth $830,000. Let's see, I'm on a fixed income living in a rent subsidized apartment and I'm told I can buy it for $830,000. Such a deal! What kind of insanity is this?
There is a story in today's Washington Post that brings the story up to date and describes the DC City Government's wholly inadequate response. Councilwoman Anita Bonds wants to tinker with the law that requires developers to offer to sell the property to the tenants. She believes that the valuation should be based on current property values not projected values upon project completion. The Developer of course disagrees. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who campaigned vigorously with promises to make affordable housing a priority as well as allowing senior citizens to age in place, is as usual absent from the discussion. No doubt she is occupied with luring the billionaire owner of DC's NFL team to relocate into the city.
Why isn't the city intervening in this matter. Why not negotiate a deal with the developer to buy the building and allow the tenants to stay. And here's a novel idea - why not a moratorium on high end residential apartments and condos until such time that truly affordable housing can be constructed for all those who need it.
During Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign, James Carville, Clinton's chief campaign strategist coined this phrase that was originally meant for the internal audience of Clinton's campaign workers as one of the most important messages to focus on. That phrase later took on a life of it's own and did in fact focus the electorate and helped Clinton defeat George Bush. I'd like to paraphrase Mr. Carville here to say, "It's racism, Stupid."
I am alternately fascinated and angered by the public's refusal to look beyond the easy arguments and packaged rationales for what the solution might be to prevent yet another mass murder such as what we have seen in Charleston, SC. While I do not discount the intent or the sincerity of those voices, the idea that if we just remove that Confederate flag or tighten up the gun laws, we will have really done something to prevent another Charleston like massacre. This, in my opinion is misguided and misses the point. How have we become so lazy that we readily accept what the media feeds us. We are bombarded daily from multiple sources with stories and opinions about removing the confederate flag and renewing the debate on gun control. As if that were to happen then all of the Dylan Roof's out there would just evaporate. The Confederate flag is just a piece of cloth. Granted it's imbued with all kinds of symbolism but that flag did not murder nine innocent people. As much as it pains me to quote the NRA, they are correct in saying that a hate filled, racist killed nine innocent African Americans, not a Glock Semi Automatic pistol.
Is it really too difficult to talk about America's history with respect to race relations? Is white privilege such an obtuse subject that it can't be discussed around the water cooler or over dinner? Is the fact that Dylan Roof's racist and murderous rantings were not seen as alarming by his peers not worthy of a national conversation? Is it laziness, is it too hard to get ones head around the idea or are we simply unwilling to acknowledge that racism is alive and well in America and continues to thrive from one generation to the next.
So what can we do? How about starting a conversation about racism rather than your favorite TV show or how the home team is doing lately. Several months ago Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, wanted his employees to start a conversation about race relations in America while customers waited for their drinks to be prepared. He was ridiculed and treated to so much derision that he abandoned the idea. Howard where are you when we need you most.
Think about any recent bombing or mass shooting directed at a group of people with something in common such as a religious affiliation, allegiance to a particular cause or country, or simply celebrating an event that they all have in common. All of these attacks no matter their country of origin are seen as acts of terrorism. All were done to terrorize a general group of people, and to make a political statement. It's terrorism by any definition of the word. I'm thinking in particular of the 2013 Boston marathon bombers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his deceased brother, Tamerlan. Both Muslim, both vowing to make a political statement and to seek revenge for injustices committed against their people. Was there ever any serious consideration given to the "misguided, troubled youth" defense? Or perhaps bullying by American peers in school? No, of course not. They were and are terrorists who sought to frighten and intimidate a group of people assembled for a common purpose.
How is it possible that Dylann Roof, a self proclaimed white supremacist who identified with the Apartheid countries of South Africa and stated at the time of the killings that he, "needed to kill black people" is not seen as a homegrown terrorist. By what stretch of the imagination can his murdering of nine church going African Americans not be designed to intimidate, frighten and send a political message to other African Americans. Yet, just 48 hours later news media outlets are pursuing stories about Dylann Roof's "troubled and misguided adolescence." In the absence of any psychiatric history to suggest otherwise, of which there is none. He is a terrorist yet he is not labeled as such. Why is that? An article appearing in today's Washington, Post speaks to this very well. You can read that here.
As much as we might want to think that events such as this are isolated acts. They are in fact representative of a festering, insidious current of racism in this country that needs to be uncovered and called out whenever it rears it's ugly head. Just one example to consider. For what purpose would a bomb threat be made directed at a group of mourners if not to threaten and intimidate. We have much to talk about in this country. Having the will to do that is a different story altogether.
It would seem that the Mayor of my city, Muriel Bowser has never met a billionaire she didn't like. In the way of background for this post see the story from NBC news.
Who exactly does the Mayor think she's fooling here. Does she think that people don't recall or can't access her public record statements on the matter of the insulting, racist team name that she was just one year ago opposed to. Who knows what the give aways and paybacks would be in such a deal but you can bet that if this deal happens Dan Snyder will be on Team Muriel for life.
I'm sure we'll be hearing about the enormous economic benefits to the city in the weeks to come, such as the low paying service jobs at the stadium and the ticket prices that no ordinary citizen can afford. Then there's the inevitable displacement of neighborhoods and housing to make way for amenities such as bars, restaurants and parking lots.
One can only hope that the City Council and the people of the District of Columbia will rise up and stop this from happening.
This afternoon, Thursday, May 7, 2015, The Mayor of Washington, DC will hold a town hall style meeting with 60 pre-selected youths from the city. Ostensibly the purpose is to prevent the kind of civil unrest that recently took place in Baltimore by learning what the youth of our city are thinking about. This is what Mayor Bowser excels at, high profile, high visibility press coverage where she and her appointed deputies can spout policy initiatives and platitudes that will make excellent 15 second sound bites on the evening news. The Mayor is a master at the well orchestrated presser. One can only dream that a rowdy, independent minded youth will ask the Mayor to speak to the hypocrisy of her campaign promise to require the Metropolitan Police Department to wear body cameras in the name of transparency and accountability, only to then insist that the camera data must be exempt from public viewing via FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests. So much for transparency and accountability.
Thankfully, the Washington, DC City Council is sufficiently outraged by the Mayor's duplicitous behavior that they are moving to block her being able to exempt video from police body cameras. Hopefully that will happen.
Today Muriel Bowser, the newly elected Mayor of Washington, DC floated a trial balloon aimed at her 11,000 Twitter followers. The question posed was, do you want to see a Redskins stadium in the city of Washington, DC. The results for what they are worth coming from Twitter were less than positive. More on that from a Washington Post Sports columnist. Aside from the ongoing controversy of the racist and insulting team name is the larger issue of the Mayor being in the thrall of developers who stand to make millions from developing city owned property not to mention the huge tax breaks given to the teams owner to lure him to move from the Maryland suburbs into DC.
There are countless more worthy causes and better uses for taxpayer dollars than trifles such as another sports stadium in the city. It's worth noting that it's not the case that the teams owner is threatening to leave town if he doesn't get his way. This is a battle for bragging rights between the suburbs of Maryland, Virginia and the city of Washington, DC, all within a 20 mile radius of one another. This point alone makes the idea of wasting city dollars even more ludicrous.
One can only hope as the office of the Mayor tries to get more traction with this plan the people of the District of Columbia will rise up and say resoundingly, "enough is enough, take care of the city first and let the billionaires take care of themselves."
The riots in Baltimore distract us from the real problem in that city and in other cities across the country. In today's all news all the time feeding frenzy the images of rioting teenagers and burning buildings will likely soon be replaced by something else. Whatever became of the thousands of dead in Nepal, oh well, that's old news. Forgive my sarcasm but it's tiresome to see that the goal of our civic leaders becomes restoration of the status quo and a return to business as usual rather than addressing the root cause of the problem.
Like other cities in America, both large and small, Baltimore has a systemic problem with police brutality. This is well documented in a September 2014 article in The Baltimore Sun. Local and national leaders will weigh in with the usual recommendations for social policy change and economic opportunity for all.
While these are certainly integral components of the long term solution, the immediate issue of brutal and out of control police departments gets scant attention. The poor and disenfranchised don't spontaneously erupt in violence directed at their police force without cause and or provocation. This has certainly been the case with the recent unprovoked killings of unarmed men by police in cities across America. While I don't condone looting and the destruction of private property, it's not too difficult to understand how it came to this in Baltimore.
If other cities in America can take any lesson from these events it should be to immediately and thoroughly examine the relationship their police departments have with all of the citizens that they are sworn to protect and serve. To ignore long standing patterns of police brutality is to invite a long hot and potentially violent Summer in cities across the country.
DC's Mayor, Muriel Bowser wants to limit the scope and authority of the newly elected Attorney General of the District of Columbia. What's up with that?Read More
The image above was taken on On February 1, 1960, when four African American college students sat down at a lunch counter at Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina, and politely asked for service. Their request was refused because they were African Americans and were not white. When asked to leave, they remained in their seats. Their actions ultimately were a part of the larger movement to end discriminatory behavior in the United States.
We had this conversation 45 years ago, why are we having it again!
The obvious answer of course is that the haters and homophobes have latched on to the latest rationale to justify their hate mongering. My religious sensibilities are offended is the new battle cry. It is also transparent bigotry, blatant nonsense and an insult to every religion that teaches acceptance, tolerance and goodwill to all persons.
It is commendable that there has been an outpouring of outrage directed at Governor Pence ranging from ordinary citizens protesting by the thousands at the state house, to large corporations expressing their dismay at creating such a hateful environment. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple Computer says it best in this op ed piece in today's Washington Post
It really is time to call out these hateful homophobes and stand up to their attempts to drag this country back into the 1950s.
Pennsylvania police officer charged with criminal homicide after fatal shooting of unarmed motorist - The Washington Post
It's about time that a District Attorney finally has the balls to do the right thing and charge a police officer for murdering a citizen. Sadly, the only reason this story seems to rise to the level of headline news is the fact that the officer was actually charged with homicide. This is a particularly vicious instance of trigger happy policing in that the victim had been shot with a taser twice, was lying face down in the snow and was then shot twice in the back by the officer's service weapon, killing the victim. All of this in the context of a traffic stop for an expired inspection sticker.
The officer's own taser gun was equipped with a video camera that subsequently recorded the entire event including the fatal shooting. This was all the evidence the District Attorney needed to bring the homicide charge. The officer as you would expect claims self defense and that she had other no choice but to use lethal force on a man lying face down in the snow with two taser darts in his back. At the time of the shooting the video clearly shows his hands in plain view with no evidence of a weapon of any kind.
It is really disturbing that these stories are becoming more and more commonplace with the police shooting first and asking questions later. Last month there was this incident in Pasco, Washington. Three police officers shot and killed at point blank range, a mentally ill man who was throwing rocks at cars. Here is a citizen made cell phone video of that event. What would be your first clue that this man was mentally ill? Who throws rocks at cars in broad daylight and then throws a rock at three armed police officers pointing guns at him. The chief of police in Pasco totally defends the actions of his officers, saying that lethal force was the only option.
What do small towns in Pennsylvania and Washington have in common with large urban police departments that have been in the news lately for extreme use of lethal force? The common thread is that in all cases the police cling to the belief that claiming self defense will justify killing citizens and that lethal force is the first rather than last option to be used. One can only hope that justice will be served in this small Pennsylvania town and that officer Mearkle will end up in prison where she belongs. It is left to be seen if this case sends any message at all to the trigger happy police in our communities.
For six years the DC city government has had a program in place that requires the developers of new condominium projects in the city to set aside a certain number of units that will be affordable for people who make 50% and 80% of the median income. A number which hovers around $100,000, give or take a few thousand. To date, this six year old program that is ingrained in campaign slogans and catchy PR press releases has provided affordable housing for (6) six home buyers. By any measure and any standard this is a failed program that will never address the core question of housing the homeless or providing affordable housing for those who want or need to live in the city.
During the last campaign for Mayor in DC I attended numerous forums and grip & grin events where the candidates trotted out their repackaged initiatives to provide "affordable housing." When pressed on the point of what "affordable" means to a homeless individual or family, the conversation quickly turns to talking points about neighborhood initiatives and small scale solutions spread throughout the city. Our current Mayor, Muriel Bowser was previously a Councilwoman for Ward 4, one of eight wards in the city. Back in 2010 she vigorously opposed the repurposing of an abandoned nursing home for use as a shelter for homeless families. As good an example of NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) as you'll find anywhere. Now Mayor Bowser is once again leading the PR spin brigade touting her commitment to affordable housing.
Do the math Mayor Bowser, it's not working and no amount of PR spin will change that until the city steps up and makes living in DC an option for everyone.
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of San Francisco says, "We regret that our intentions were misunderstood and ill conceived…"
One really has to wonder if the church would ever have come to that conclusion had the local CBS news affiliate KCBS not shown up to film the drenching system in action. I tend to think they thought it was a fine plan since they cite how well it works in the Financial District in San Francisco. It also causes one to question why upon learning that the homeless were being treated so inhumanely in the city the church didn't speak out against such practices rather than adopting them for their own use.
The irony here of course is that Pope Francis has instituted a program that opens up a portion of the Vatican to provide showers and haircuts to the homeless in the city of Rome. Perhaps the only question the Archbishop of the San Francisco needs to ask himself is, "What would Pope Francis do."
One of the many things I have learned from my "Invisible Ones" photography project is how little effort it takes to make a difference in the day of a homeless person's life. How five minutes of conversation can provide a shred of dignity and recognition in the life of someone that is largely invisible. Think about that as you make your way around your city tending to the things that you do.
The Mayor's plan to end homelessness in DC in five years is comprehensive, ambitious and humane. She should be commended for making this a priority. In my opinion it is also doomed to fail for one simple reason - "NIMBY." If you're not familiar with this acronym, it stands for not in my backyard. It rears it's ugly head during public hearings, city council meetings and community gatherings where the issue of placing facilities to help the less fortunate, the mentally ill or the disabled is being considered. Otherwise good hearted and well meaning citizens will invoke NIMBY as a means of blocking these initiatives. NIMBY enjoys a remarkable record of success.
Parts of the Mayor's plan are commendable. Her focus on the "Housing First Model" is an excellent idea and a proven program in DC that works both to house and provide wrap around services for the homeless and homeless mentally ill. It is not a 45 bed shelter in a NIMBY neighborhood.
The city owns or leases large buildings that have or are currently being used to shelter homeless families and homeless.mentally ill single men and women. Why not use a large portion of the millions of dollars allocated for the Mayor's program to refurbish and remodel these facilities making them model programs in DC for the purpose of providing shelter and wrap around services. The buildings are in place, NIMBY is not an issue. People will be off the streets next Winter and no one will die from hypothermia.
Why would the Mayor set her ambitious plan on a course that will ultimately get bogged down in city council hearings, public hearings and neighborhood meetings where NIMBY will rise up and oppose anything that requires a facility in it's neighborhood. DC has a long and ugly history of watching the homeless/mentally ill population grow larger with each passing Winter. Proposals and promises have come and gone along with the seasons. The annual National Homeless count done in January and due to be release in April of 2015 will show yet another increase in this population. Estimates are the count will top 5000. It's really time to stop with failed promises and make the current homeless facilities safe, secure and model programs for years to come. If the city plans to spend the money, it should find the will to spend it wisely.