Testimony on the Sense of the Council for Ending Chronic Homelessness Resolution of 2014 Vanessa Wellbery
Government Relations and Community Outreach
Good afternoon. My name is Vanessa Wellbery and I am here on behalf of Hyacinth’s Place and its residents, volunteers, staff, and board members to speak in strong support of this important resolution and to thank the committee for its commitment to addressing chronic homelessness in the District.
Hyacinth’s Place provides permanent supportive housing; specifically, to homeless women who have been diagnosed with mental illness, and we praise this resolution for recognizing the critical role facilities like ours play in the fight to end chronic homelessness. Today I want to talk about what we mean when we say permanent supportive housing.
To end chronic homelessness, we must invest not only in putting a roof over our clients’ heads but also in equipping them to lead healthy, independent lives. The permanent supportive housing model isn’t just about building housing units; it is about offering quality, consistent, and comprehensive services within their walls. To that end, Hyacinth’s Place has 15 housing units and, in tandem, intensive on-site support services and individual case management. Our residents work with mental-health professionals, social workers, and substance-abuse counselors to address their health-care needs. We also provide them with vocational training, job placement, independent living skills like financial-planning and nutrition classes, and a number of personal enrichment activities. This support system empowers our residents to build independent lives and thus prevents them from returning to the cycle of homelessness.
Unfortunately, when it comes to funding for the permanent supportive housing model, the support side all too often goes unsung. For us that means that to provide services, we must rely on volunteer staffing, which poses risks to our continuity of care. So I’d like to take the opportunity today to request respectfully that as ICH moves forward with its production plan, you advocate not just for building the 2,679 PSH units this resolution endorses but also for equipping them with staff and other support resources. If it doesn’t incorporate robust service delivery, the permanent supportive housing model won’t address the root causes of homelessness—and therefore can’t successfully end its cycle.
As this resolution states, chronic homelessness is solvable. With an investment in permanent supportive housing that places equal value on construction and service delivery, I know we can make that a reality.
Thank you for your support. It was an honor to have the opportunity to speak today.