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SOME helps increase District resources to reduce homelessness

In June, the Council of the District of Columbia passed the District Budget for the next fiscal year. This caps 10 months of work by SOME’s Advocacy Department. The Department, with a revived Advocacy Network, was very active in the effort to add financial resources into the budget to help people get out of homelessness. We testified at hearings, answered questions from decision-makers, helped lead or organize advocacy rallies, and wrote and signed group letters to the Mayor and Council.

It takes a lot of money to buy land and develop buildings, and over the past eight years SOME and its advocacy partners have succeeded in increasing the District’s Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) from $14 million a year to $100 million. Although we believe that amount needs to go up again to reflect new challenges–tens of thousands of DC residents needing housing and a reduced value for certain tax credits–the final Budget includes not only $100 million for the HPTF but another $10 million for a new Housing Preservation Fund.

It is also necessary to subsidize housing that extremely low-income persons can afford, and SOME helped lead the successful effort to add $3.4 million to the District’s Local Rent Supplement Program. These funds will enable existing and future housing units to be available for people at the lowest incomes.

We also played our part to successfully increase resources for housing subsidies and permanent supportive housing for homeless singles, and advocated for resources for homeless families. As is often the case, we didn’t get everything we asked for, but we got more into the budget than was originally planned!

For the past two years, SOME has been part of a citywide Team TANF. We were desperately trying to keep thousands of DC families from being dropped entirely from receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance on October 1, 2017, solely because they had received TANF for a lifetime limit of 60 months. After engaging recipient families, producing a video, contributing to a citywide process with advocates and city officials, we succeeded with both budgetary and legislative victories. To ensure that no child will be cut off, the time limit will be completely eliminated, meaning that families with children who qualify for the benefit will receive TANF. A large portion of the TANF grant (80%) will also be specifically reserved for children so that they are also provided with life’s basic necessities.

Offering high quality and individualized behavioral health services to our clients is also important to SOME. Therefore, we are satisfied to report that we successfully advocated for $2.9 million for a rate increase for mental health services and substance abuse treatments so that providers are able to provide quality services as the cost of providing these services increases. Recovery from addiction is a long process that goes well past the treatment phase, so we will continue to advocate for more funding for recovery support services to support our resilient clients as they strive to live a sober life.

We are also delighted to report funding for transportation help for adult learners for the first time, and increases to several food and nutrition programs.

This budget season has reconfirmed the influence of advocacy and demonstrated the power of SOME’s voice when we all participate and speak boldly about the importance of dedicating financial resources to breaking the cycle of homelessness.

You can sign up for the Advocacy Network here: https://some.salsalabs.org/advocacynetworksignup.

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