The Washington Informer: D.C. Council’s Anita Bonds Proposes Bill to Fight Homelessness
D.C. Council’s Anita Bonds Proposes Bill to Fight Homelessness
Seniors, Veterans Targeted in Measure
Stacy M. Brown | 5/13/2015, 3 p.m.
On any given night, there are nearly 8,000 homeless individuals in the District of Columbia.
The facts and figures provided by the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness in Northeast also reveal that 5,790 individuals find themselves in emergency shelters, approximately 1,600 in transitional housing facilities with another 396 simply are unsheltered.
While those numbers are disconcerting, District Councilwoman At-Large Anita Bonds said making matters worse is the growing number of senior citizens and U.S. war veterans who now count among the homeless.
“We have a moral imperative to decease homelessness among our veteran and senior populations,” Bonds said.
The councilwoman, who chairs the Committee on Housing and Community Development, has introduced the “Caring for Our Homeless Heroes and Seniors Amendment Act of 2015,” a bill that brings the District’s veteran and senior services agencies onto the Interagency Council on Homelessness to increase coordination of services and to more effectively combat homelessness among these two important populations.
Since her re-election in November, Bonds has remained active in trying to curb problems tied to housing in the District.
In March, she introduced the TOPA Bona Fide Offer of Sale Clarification Amendment Act of 2015, a bill aimed at protecting tenants and providing further clarity to the Tenants Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA).
To prevent the permanent loss of affordable housing units, as well as prevent the displacement of elderly, long-time and low-income residents, Bonds introduced the bill which was drafted in consultation with representatives on all sides of the issue.
Later, she introduced the Rent Control Housing Clearinghouse Amendment Act that would establish the first ever database of rent-controlled housing units making it significantly easier for residents to find affordable housing in the District of Columbia.
In introducing her latest bill on May 5, the councilwoman noted that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimate that nearly 50,000 veterans are homeless on any given night across the country.
She said declining availability of affordable housing and increased costs of living in the District have resulted in a rising homeless senior population.
“Homeless seniors are more likely to suffer from depression or dementia, susceptible to bodily harm and often find it difficult to get around to receive services,” Bonds said.
In order for the Interagency Council on Homelessness to most effectively decrease the District’s veteran and senior homeless population, the District Office of Veterans Affairs and the Office on Aging need to have a voice at the table so these important populations will have a strong advocate in drafting policy and services can be further coordinated across District agencies, she said.
“This bill will be an important step forward to combat this pervasive problem,” Bonds said.
Josh Brown, Bonds’ community outreach director, said the councilwoman has for some time been concerned over the plight of the homeless in the District.
He said she learned even more of the seriousness of the matter as she drove city streets and looked on in anguish as seniors and veterans were easily spotted among the vulnerable.
“She believes very strongly that more action needed to be done to combat homelessness among these two important populations,” Brown said.
“The legislation that she’s proposed gives the veterans and the senior communities a voice at the table as the District works to combat homelessness and the bill will allow a further coordination of services across District agencies to combat homelessness among veterans and the senior community,” he said.