DC gets funding boost from feds to fight homelessness

A homeless man sleeps on the National Mall near the US Capitol in Washington, DC on March 8, 2021. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

D.C. is getting a significant boost from the federal government in an effort to combat homelessness and housing scarcity in the District.

Mayor Muriel Bowser said Wednesday during a call with reporters that D.C. is receiving $19 million in home funds from the American Rescue Plan, “which is four times what we normally get.”

“Our commitment is to making homelessness rare, brief and non recurring. And we have had success in the last six years in reducing homelessness by 11% and significantly reducing family homelessness by 85%,” Bowser said.

But the coronavirus pandemic has put those gains at risk, she added, “So we look forward to investing the additional home dollars — it will allow us to work [to] acquire distressed properties and turn them into homes for residents who are in our homeless services system.”

The mayor said D.C. will focus on using the money to acquire recently-shuttered hotels and “convert them into permanent supportive housing,” which she said is needed to solve homelessness.

“We want to use the home funds to build housing,” Bowser said.

She cited projects such as the North Capitol Commons, which has 124 units of mixed-income housing including 60 permanent supportive housing units, as well as Abrams Hall at the former Walter Reed campus, where there are 54 permanent supportive housing units.

The $19 million is in addition to the $350 million Stay DC rent help program for residents that went live Monday.

“It’s been up for about 36 hours and already 2,200 D.C. residents have started their applications,” Bowser said.

Through the program, renters and landlords can apply for grant money to cover past and future rental payments in addition to utilities such as water, gas and electricity.

Residents can apply online at stay.dc.gov or by calling 833-4-STAYDC.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont were also on the call.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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