After the groundbreaking of the first of six Short-term Family housing facilities across the city, District officials have scheduled additional groundbreakings in Wards 6 and 7 for later this month and Ward 8 in November 2017. During a recent roundtable discussion, a District official said the new properties should abate some issues surrounding housing insecurity, in addition to assisting families in need, such as access to social services.

“The purpose of an emergency shelter is to provide immediate safety and to quickly support families to end an episode of homelessness by accessing stable housing,” Susana Castillo, deputy press secretary for the Mayor’s Office of Communications, told the AFRO. “We also know that families have better outcomes – meaning they are able to access permanent housing more quickly – when services and supports are co-located in the emergency shelter buildings.

According to Castillo, housing programs will include spaces for private meetings for services that will provide occupants with permanent housing programs, housing search assistance, credit counseling and budgeting on-site.

She noted the vulnerability temporary housing creates, especially for women with young children, citing the Relisha Rudd case, as a catalyst for shifting families more quickly into safe housing before helping them transition into permanent residences. Rudd disappeared in 2014 at the age of 8 while living with her family in the DC General Family Shelter. She has never been found.

Castillo said each program employs a social work staff, able to help parents navigate a range of needs – including childcare, health care, training, and employment services.

“Programs take a multigenerational approach, bringing in services that provide early childhood screenings and supports administered by the Office of the State Superintendent for Education’s school liaisons, as well as supports that strengthen parenting and help families to overcome trauma,” Castillo said. “To adequately meet the day-to-day needs of program participants, there will be space for computer labs, laundry, common living rooms, and microwaves. Each site also has play spaces to meet the needs of children of all ages.”

According to a recent report from the Washington City Paper, D.C. currently relies on motels and hotels for housing homeless families on an emergency basis, at a cost of $80,000 per night to house approximately 600 homeless families. To remedy the use of housing families in dwellings designed for overnight stays that have proven costly and unsafe, developers have been required to set aside up to 50 units for families who were ready to move from shelters into new residences.

But in a city on the verge of displacing many of its working-class residents through exorbitant leasing, affordable, quality and safe housing seems elusive. Castillo said the city recognizes many people are facing unstable housing situations and the Mayor is working to meet all housing needs. “Recognizing that many people face unstable housing situations, including experiencing homelessness, overcrowding, doubling up, and extreme affordability challenges, Mayor Bowser has invested $100 million annually to produce and preserve affordable housing – more per capita than any other city in the country,” Castillo said.

Over the last two and a half years, more than 3,600 units of affordable housing have been constructed, and nearly 5,000 units are in the process of being constructed.