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Council Members Call For Increased Funding For Homeless Families

Residents meet Graham, Brown with anger

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Council members Jim Graham and Michael Brown provoked a mixed reaction at a press conference at the old D.C. General Hospital site.
Patrick Madden
Council members Jim Graham and Michael Brown provoked a mixed reaction at a press conference at the old D.C. General Hospital site.

D.C. Council members Jim Graham and Michael Brown say a surprise budget surplus should be used to help homeless families.

Graham said a large surplus was discovered in the city's juvenile justice agency budget this week, and he wants some of that money transferred into the D.C.'s family shelter program at the old D.C. General Hospital site in Southeast — where homeless families are currently housed.

"We are now calling on the mayor to divert a portion of the $14 million surplus at DYRS to the homeless effort, particularly as it relates to the family and small children," said Graham.

Graham was joined by council member Michael Brown today at D.C. General, said there are a hundred empty units at the site that could be used to house homeless families. According to Graham, family homelessness in the District has increased nearly 75 percent since 2008.

The council members had hoped to be the bearers of good news, but the press conference quickly turned into a listening session, as frustrated residents told stories of mice in the rooms, mites in the bed, tales of decades-long waiting lists, and families with nowhere to go, no one to turn to.

There were tears and anger that at times was directed at the council members themselves.

"Why in the heck people can't get things done? You got Kwame Brown stealing money. You got this other joker stealing money. Council members, man, they like real criminals. And we look at this everyday," said D.C. resident Charles Cruise. "You all come down here to say 'We trying to help.' It seems like you are not trying to help anyone but yourself. You're lining your pockets! I don't want nothing from nobody — just get me up out of this joint. And I can do the rest myself."

Later, Graham's chief of staff stepped in to remind the crowd that council members Brown and Graham — unlike other city leaders — are working on their behalf to increase homeless funding.

Graham said he understands, and appreciates, the crowd's passion.

"What we are looking for, though, are solutions, that take this anger and frustration and bring about change," says Graham "The fact of the matter is this city does have the money to expand on our family shelter situation and to keep it expanded."

Both Graham and Brown say they hope the residents bring their message to the Wilson Building so other members can hear it.

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