Friday, December 3, 2010

Have Some D.C. Council Members Bumped Their Heads?

Hey friends...

Been some time, but definitely glad to be back. I hope and pray that your Thanksgiving Day was exceptional and you are preparing diligently for the holidays.

As we share time with our families and friends during this special holiday season, I am reminded of how difficult it will be for some families and children as they brave the cold weather and harsh conditions of being in the cold this winter, without safety, shelter and food to tide them over. Not to mention the many homeless families affected by domestic violence.

And, as if this is bad. Well, there is something that tops this experience. How about arriving to a shelter after you have been put out of your home or left under the cover of darkness with your children and you go to the shelter and try to get in? If you do not have your identification, then you could be turned down. Imagine that?

Well, when I was ten and left the home where my mother and brother had just been killed, right before my eyes, I had just the shirt on my back and shorts with no shoes on.

We just lost our guardian, my mom. It was 1984, July 2. We lived in Capitol Heights, MD and immediately were displaced. My grandmother eventually was offered an opportunity to live in her sister's house, which she accepted. Like she had a choice. At any rate, my grandmother told me that she applied for funding, some help from the government and they told her that we were not her children or legal guardian, so she was denied. It was a slap in the face for a family who had undergone so much trauma.

In the midst of losing a loved one to violence, we had to deal with being displaced and also had to live on my grandmother's one salary. To say the least, it was taxing and difficult for her and us.

What if we had to go to a shelter? What if we did not have family to take us in? God forbid we didn't have my grandmother. She was asked by someone on her job if she was going to put us in foster care.

I did not experience foster care of living in a shelter as a child, but nonetheless, it was quite difficult.

Read this information below. If you disagree with Councilmember Wells and everyone else who is proposing this nonesense, please use your energy to let them know that you do not support this.

A life hangs in the balance. Trust me.

Homeless Services Reform Amendment Act of 2010 Will Harm DC Residents, Increase Financial and Administrative Burdens, and is Legally Unsound

Bill 18-1059, the Homeless Services Reform Amendment Act of 2010 (HSRA), introduced by Council member Tommy Wells, presents a number of serious problems for at-risk District residents (including vulnerable children), for providers of homeless services, and for the DC government itself. The bill puts the lives of DC residents at risk, is administratively and financially cumbersome, and opens the District to potential legal trouble. Additionally, the proposed law would reduce homeless services while increasing cost of administration.

What Bill 18-1059 does:

Requires verification of DC residency before one can access emergency shelter or almost any other homeless service, including winter shelter, outreach, Housing First, meal programs and crisis intervention services, and defines residency more narrowly than any other program in DC.

Attempts to exclude a) those who seek “low barrier” shelter (which does not include any family shelters or “severe weather[1]” shelters), as well as b) applicants to shelter who are victims of “domestic abuse, sexual assault, or human trafficking” (but provides no information on how a person would verify such exemption prior to receiving services), from residency requirements during severe weather only.

Eliminates the longstanding health and safety protections for families with minor children by removing the requirement in the winter that family shelter be “apartment-style.” Removes any limit on the number of families that can be placed together in one room with communal sleeping, eating, and bathroom facilities.

Bill 18-1059 is dangerous for DC residents.

  • The risks of B18-1059 do not justify the benefits. The anticipated benefit of B18-1059 is the possibility of excluding a small number of non-DC residents from shelters and services in the District by requiring proof of DC residency before one can receive shelter or services. This benefit, however, is far outweighed by the potential risks: leaving the District’s most vulnerable residents—the homeless—out in the cold on hypothermia nights.
  • B18-1059, by mandating proof of District residency, may disproportionately exclude the most vulnerable DC residents. Many individuals become unexpectedly homeless following an eviction, an apartment fire, or a dangerous domestic situation—these same individuals are likely to lack proof of residency when seeking services.
  • B18-1059 defines “DC resident” more narrowly than any other District program.[2] Homeless individuals are the most likely DC residents to lack proper documentation. By imposing a residency standard that is more stringent than would be required for other social services, DC is certain to deny services to District residents.
  • B18-1059 denies emergency services to individuals facing imminent danger. Mandating proof of residency for residents seeking hypothermia shelter is akin to requiring ID before administering life-saving medical emergency services.

Bill 18-1059 is administratively burdensome and financially taxing.

  • B18-1059 places an unprecedented burden on outreach and shelter workers. Upon implementation of this bill, all employees and volunteers conducting outreach or intake at DC’s homeless shelters and service providers would have to become experts on verification of residency. Training service providers would require specialized instructions, and many organizations will need new intake procedures, increased staff, and updated technology to comply.
  • Verification of exempt status could be impossible, or in some cases, illegal. Requiring victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or human trafficking to announce, and presumably prove, status is not only administratively problematic, but may also constitute a violation of civil rights under local and federal confidentiality and fair housing laws.[3]
  • In a time of budgetary strain, B18-1059 will increase costs while reducing services. Requiring proof of identification will make outreach and intake procedures more cumbersome, thereby reducing the number of individuals served and increasing cost per client. Operational and logistical restructuring required to implement a new residency documentation mandate may also be expensive and inefficient.

Bill 18-1059 is legally problematic.

  • B18-1059 puts the District at risk of lawsuits. This bill puts the health and safety of DC residents at risk. Any individual unable to access life-saving services because of the bill’s implementation may have a cause of action against the District.
  • Adverse impact on protected classes may violate civil rights law. The strict verification of residency requirements in this bill will be prohibitive to certain protected classes, including survivors of violence, immigrants, and persons with limited English proficiency.

Bill 18-1059 will put DC children in winter shelters at increased risk of harm and abuse.

  • Communal-style shelters are dangerous and unhealthy for children. Cramming families into spaces with strangers instead of providing them with basic privacy and safety protections puts children at increased risk of abuse by unrelated adults and at increased risk of contracting communicable diseases. The communal environment can also lead to poor school performance and attendance.
  • B18-1059 puts families this winter at risk of being placed in small rooms with unlimited numbers of unrelated families. Throughout the last winter, large numbers of families (sometimes as many as 18) were piled on top of one another in one room at DC General, causing great stress to these parents and children. The only way families were able to protect the safety of their children was to assert their right to apartment-style shelter—the same right that this bill would take away.
  • Non-apartment style shelter can be lethal for persons with immune-compromised disorders such as HIV/AIDS or lupus. Families shouldn’t be forced to choose between sleeping on the street and risking their health and life in a crowded, communal environment where disease is easily spread.
  • Communal-style shelter is dangerous for victims of domestic violence. Victims would be at risk of living in close proximity to the perpetrator of violence, endangering their safety and the safety of their children.

Conclusion: Bill 18-1059 may have been a well intentioned effort to prioritize scarce resources for DC residents, but the actual effect of the bill will be to divert those scarce life-saving resources from the very residents who need help the most. Any concerns, however minimal, that non-DC residents are taking away resources from DC residents should be resolved in a thoughtful, data-driven manner that brings regional partners to the table. The District could better serve its homeless neighbors by limiting residency documentation requirements to certain long-term, non-emergency services and by coordinating with surrounding jurisdictions.

A hearing on this bill will take place on November 8, 2010 at 11:30am, Wilson Building, Room 500. For more information contact Nassim Moshiree at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless,

[1] “Severe Weather Shelter” is the same as hypothermia shelter. It is public or private space that the District makes available of the purpose of providing shelter to individuals and families who are homeless and cannot access other shelter during hypothermic weather (when the actual or forecasted temperature falls below 32 degreed Fahrenheit). Often severe weather shelter is located in the same space as “low barrier” shelter for individuals. All shelter for families is either “severe weather” or temporary shelter.

[2] See DC ST § 4-205.03 for DC residency as defined by the District of Columbia Public Assistance Act of 1982.

[3] DC ST § 14-310; D.C. ST § 7-1201.01(11); 42 U.S.C. § 10601-10604; 42 U.S.C. § 13925(b)(2); 42 U.S.C. § 11375(c)(5); and 42 U.S.C. § 11383(1)(8)(A); DC ST § 14-310; D.C. ST § 7-1201.01(11); 42 U.S.C. § 10601-10604; 42 U.S.C. § 13925(b)(2); 42 U.S.C. § 11375(c)(5); and 42 U.S.C. § 11383(1)(8)(A); DC ST § 2-1402.21; and 42 U.S.C.A § 3604

Thursday, October 28, 2010

White House Commemorates DV Awareness Month

Hello Friends.

I know it's been some time since I've blogged. Things are moving fast, but Ido find it therapeutic to blog -- get my feelings out in the air. But, as always, I am happy to see 17 followers. I always say that one is appreciated because one counts. I am grateful.

Yesterday, at the White House, I watched an event unfold. President Obama and Vice President Biden commemorated Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

As I sat there, I could not help but think about the countless victims and survivors who struggle everyday with devastation resulting from violence.

I also thought about my mother, brother and God-sister Tiffany. I knew I was giving them a voice by sitting there, humbled by the invitation.

I sent a letter to the White House this morning stating how thankful I truly was. I remarked that from a bloody room and an empty refrigerator to a room in the White House where victims and survivors were honoured was humbling and signaled hope.

The Violence Against Women Act and the Victims of Crime Act wasn't passed until after my mother and brother's death in 1984. Both laws did not do a single thing for us in 1984. We were not compensated as victims and in fact, my grandmother said that she was denied funding because we were not her children. We have come a long way since then.

Secretary Donovan (Housing and Urban Development) has a program that would help victims maintain their housing so that the choice to leave or stay for victims is their choice. They are not simply put to the streets. The President also remarked on many other avenues his administration is taking to make it easier for victims.

In 1984, we lost everything. I never returned to my house, at least on the inside. All of my toys, my clothes, my bed, simply gone. I was forced to walk away. The last memory I had was watching my mother and brother bleeding on the ground. At ten, that was a difficult moment and to be silent for three years (no therapy) and very little social services, was taxing on our me and my family.

Today, I am more hopeful than ever. We are paying more attention to domestic violence. We are paying more attention to sensible gun laws, thanks to the Brady Campaign and Brady Center where sensible gun laws are the order of the day. Thanks to the work of the William Kellibrew Foundation for their tireless efforts to make people aware and educate youth on the issue.

We cannot stop here. The road is tough and long and everyday starts anew.

I am more than committed to ending violence against women and children and anyone else who is being violated physically, sexually, emotionally, mentally and economically.

Please take a stand with me and influence someone else to take a stand.

Ask yourself, What am I doing to end violence against women, children and others? Sometimes it just takes a listening ear.

The next time you encounter someone, think about their lives. Just consider for one moment. This person could be 1 out of 4 women victimized, beaten, or hurt by their spouse, partner, or loved one. This person could be 1 out of 6 who are sexually assaulted each year in America.

Look beyond the exterior. It just takes you caring.

To see video from the White House Commemoration event go to

You will catch me on the third row, directly behind Secretary of Health Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, Victor Rivers and Joe Torre, Former Manager of the New York Yankees.

To learn more about how you can become a part of pushing for more sensible gun laws that keep people like Marshall Brent Williams, my family's killer, away from guns and how you can help close the Gun Show Loophole visit

You can also visit for more information on the William Kellibrew Foundation.

And, if you are in need of help call 1.800.FYI.CALL (National Center for Victims of Crime).

In an emergency, please call 911 immediately.

These and other acts of reaching out can save a life and possibly save lives.

Thank you for your listening ear today and I wish each one of you the best today and beyond.

Til next time...


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Update & Great Reads

Hello friends!

I am so excited to see 15 followers on the blogspot. I see we are growing. It's also exciting because I can remember when it was just one member, me, lol. I have learned that one person matters though, but I am eternally grateful for each of you tuning in. It's been a while.

The past few months have been tough, but today is a new day and a new opportunity. I take it easy and slow, but at a fast pace, lol. I wanted this post to be short and sweet.

I would like to point you to the William Kellibrew Foundation website to learn more about what we are doing to combat violence. Go to

Although, February is over I wanted to post some great resources on Teen Dating Violence. I use the Children's Exposure to Violence survey constantly. You will find the information below astounding, mind-boggling and educational.

Take a look!


Children’s Exposure to Violence: A comprehensive National SurveyTeen

Dating Violence: A Closer Look at Adolescent Romantic Relationships

Understanding Teen Dating Violence

Want more information? Here are some great websites:

Short and sweet tonight.

I promise to blog more.

Til next time...