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D.C. lands far from target of moving 500 homeless families out of shelters

Activists gathered outside Mayor Vincent Gray's office in May to demand more funding for affordable housing. Samuel Klein Senior Photo Editor | Hatchet file photo.
Activists gathered outside Mayor Vincent Gray’s office in May to demand more funding for affordable housing. Hatchet File Photo by Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor.
This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Eva Palmer

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is less than halfway to reaching his goal of moving 500 homeless families out of shelters and into subsidized apartments in 100 days, with the self-imposed deadline set for Friday.

Only 187 families have moved into apartments since Gray launched the initiative in April, the Washington Post reported

Beatriz Otero, the deputy mayor for health and human services, said the city has found 459 apartments for families. She said the program deserved a grade of “nearly an A,” even though the city has not yet moved the families into the available units.

The failure to meet Gray’s target puts a snag in the city’s finances: D.C. has no money set aside for backup hotel rooms during the winter months. Gray, an alumnus, hopes to see $145 million for affordable housing programs in next year’s budget, a 12 percent increase from 2014.

The mayor has faced criticism from advocates for what they call his failure to allocate enough money to D.C.’s homeless population, especially after a rough winter sometimes forced more than 4,000 people into homeless shelters.

Vincent Gray, mayor
Mayor Vincent Gray had aimed to move 500 families into subsidized housing and out of homeless shelters by July 11. Hatchet File Photo

Through the housing program, families pay about 40 percent of the cost for an apartment. Most of the units are located east of the Anacostia River.

The city is required by law to shelter families that request it once temperatures hit freezing. Since the peak of the recession, family homelessness in D.C. has risen 74 percent.

With families expected to move into apartments, D.C. General Hospital’s shelter had planned to have enough space to hold 150 families. Otero said Wednesday D.C. General will have room for no more than 50 families this fall, the Post reported.

While most city officials agree the aging shelter needs to close, Otero said at a hearing Thursday that it will likely remain open through 2016. She said the facility will continue to be home to families that entered last winter, though only for short stays.

D.C. General came under fire in the spring after 8-year-old Relisha Rudd went missing from its shelter on March 1. Rudd has still not been found, and the Metropolitan Police Department acknowledged that she would likely not be found alive.

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