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Commentary By Joe Horning: A Plea For Comprehensive Homeless Services

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A few weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to end the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, established to help steady communities that had suffered most from foreclosures in an effort to help balance the federal budget.

I recognize the difficult reality of needing to cut programs, but this ruling could not come at a worse time for the American homeowners who are struggling to keep their houses. Several reports have confirmed that the foreclosure crisis is dramatically increasing homelessness, and now, without additional support from the federal government, that number will surely keep rising.

We're already seeing the issue hit home. The District's only shelter for homeless families has limited space, and recently made it even harder for families to be accepted.

In the latest move to manage the city's homelessness crisis, the District started housing homeless families in hotels around the city. This is a short-term solution, but the issue of homelessness cannot be solved with a short-term view.

Any homeless family or individual —- regardless of how they became homeless —- requires more than a bed. To begin the recovery process, they must also have access to a coordinated system of wraparound services: case managers, education and employment services, and health and mental health services.

One example of this kind of care provider is N Street Village shelter for women. Last year, they served 46 percent of the adult, single, homeless women in D.C., not only by providing meals and clothing, but supportive housing, case management, mental health therapy, physical wellness programs, job training, and peer support.

Many people in D.C. won't have a home tonight. Many won't even have a bed. Some will be in a shelter, others will be in a hotel temporarily, and many will be on the streets. As D.C.continues to look for solutions to support a growing number of homeless individuals, I implore them to look at the N Street Village model of care.

Budgets are tight, but to empower people, we must provide more than meals, clothes and shelter. We must provide opportunities to learn and grow, and access to a strong social network. We owe this to our less fortunate brothers and sisters.


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