Funding issues cause concern for homeless shelters

As the weather gets colder, homeless shelters in the city are in higher demand, but some homeless providers have said funding issues have made their financial future uncertain.

In September, Mayor Adrian Fenty’s administration cut $12 million from the city’s homeless services budget, much to the chagrin of homeless supporters and nonprofit organizations around the District, The Washington Post reported. After homeless advocates decried the cuts, the Fenty Administration promised to ensure enough beds would be available for the homeless population. Still, Scott Schenkelberg, director of Miriam’s Kitchen, said his organization is still challenged with a “lack of resources.”

Schenkelberg cited the 2008 closing of the Franklin Shelter, a historic former school at 13th and K streets that had previously held up to 250 men, as a blow to the homeless population, and said he thought it might be part of a push to keep the homeless out of downtown D.C. In addition, Rachael’s Women’s Center, a downtown shelter that has provided a street outreach program in the past, will not be able to run the program this year due eliminated funding, according to the Post.

An increased number of men and women now seek help at Miriam’s Kitchen, a shelter on 24th and G streets that provides meals and social services to the homeless, he said.

“The biggest need is for more downtown services,” Schenkelberg said. “[The closing of the Franklin Shelter] means people have to go to extreme distances to come here.”

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Counting the number of homeless is a perennial challenge but, according to Fannie Mae’s Help the Homeless Program, more than 12,000 people in the Washington metropolitan area are living without homes.

“Since the 2008 economic crisis we’ve found the number has spiked up. There’s an increase in family homelessness, which is now at a 10 percent rise,” said Neil Donovan, the executive director for the National Coalition for the Homeless. “The gains that we found in 2006 and 2007 in individual homelessness has now been erased by the economy.”

The issue becomes more pertinent as hypothermia season – which runs from Nov. 1 to March 31 sets in.

Kristyn Carrillo, an Elliott School graduate and the manager of residential support services at the N Street Village, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping homeless women, said the future of her shelter’s budget is unclear.

“We are somewhat lucky that we have a smaller portion of our funding that comes from public funding. In that sense [budget cuts] may or may not affect us as much as some other folks,” Carrillo said. “It’s a little unclear right now exactly what the outcome is going to be of the cuts.”

Timothy Kane, the director of GW’s Office of Community Service, said Miriam’s Kitchen – which is able to operate due to a wealth of volunteers – is just one organization working with the homeless that attracts GW students.

“The Office of Community Service offers continuous and regular service opportunities with organizations that deal with the issue of hunger, homelessness and poverty through one of our programs, Neighbors Project,” Kane said in an e-mail.

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