On February 26, the Committee on Housing and Community Development held an agency oversight hearing on the Department of Housing and Community Development. Here is Hyacinth’s Place testimony.
Good afternoon Chairperson Bonds and Members of the Committee. My name is Vanessa Wellbery and I am here on behalf of Hyacinth’s Place and its residents, volunteers, staff, and board members. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.
Hyacinth’s Place provides permanent supportive housing to formerly homeless women with a mental-health diagnosis. Built in 2011, we have 15 efficiency units combined with on-site access to mental-health professionals, social workers, and substance-abuse counselors. We also have personal enrichment resources like vocational training and financial-planning and nutrition classes. This support system empowers our residents to build independent lives and thus prevents them from returning to the cycle of homelessness. I’m here because Hyacinth’s Place would not be and could not continue to be without the Housing Production Trust Fund and the Local Rent Supplement Program, both of which are under review at today’s hearing.
The permanent supportive housing model isn’t just about building housing units; it is about offering quality, consistent, and comprehensive services within their walls. And it’s about tailoring those services to fit each client’s unique needs.
Critical to the Housing Authority and DHCD’s performance is that they apply this philosophy–that when it comes to homelessness, housing is only one piece of the puzzle—to their operations. In other words, the Housing Authority and DHCD must see themselves as a part of a larger, interconnected network of providers and agencies, each of which is addressing factors that make someone susceptible to homelessness and none of whom can do it alone.
To that end, I would like to suggest three performance priorities for the Housing Authority and DHCD:
First, that the Housing Authority’s procedure for processing housing referrals—from the Department of Behavioral Health, for example—is expeditious and seamless.
Second, that funds already designated for specific projects or operations are going out the door.
Finally, that collaboration with agencies whose services can stop the cycle of homelessness—like the Department of Behavioral Health, the Department of Employment Services, and the Office of Returning Citizens Affairs, to name a few—is proactive and innovative.
We all must be deliberate about taking a holistic approach to ending homelessness. To our clients, housing isn’t just a roof over their heads. Housing is health care, it is education, it is employment, it is recovery, and it is repaired family relationships. It should be all of these things to the DHCD and the Housing Authority too.
Hyacinth’s Place has endorsed the D.C. Fair Budget Coalition’s budget platform, which is guided by the same principle of interconnectedness—that to fight poverty in the District, we have to tackle a range of issues concurrently. We also are a member of the Coalition on Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development’s Supportive Housing Working Group, and we look forward to returning in April to talk about our FY’16 funding recommendations.
Thank you again for the opportunity to testify today. I am happy to answer any questions you might have.