(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, Mayor Bowser cut the ribbon on The Horizon, the short-term family housing program in Ward 7, marking another step forward in delivering on her promise to close and replace DC General Family Shelter with dignified, service-enriched programs across all eight wards. The Horizon is the second of three short-term family housing programs opening this fall, following the opening of The Kennedy in Ward 4.
“Washingtonians know that when our neighbors need support, our DC values dictate that we will do all we can to help families get the housing and services they need to get back on their feet,” said Mayor Bowser. “With these new short-term family housing programs, we are providing a chance for our families to rebuild their circumstance as they continue to contribute to our greater DC community.”
At The Horizon, families will have access to service-enriched programming that will help them stabilize and exit homelessness. The site includes 35 family units, computer labs for the residents, administrative space for staff and providers, outdoor playground and recreational space, age-appropriate indoor recreation space, a homework and study lounge for residents, and other amenities.
“As we continue our efforts to prevent homelessness—which we have done successfully for more than 5,700 families—we recognize that these programs are the centerpiece of the transformation of our emergency response system for adults with children,” said Director of the DC Department of Human Services (DHS) Laura Zeilinger. “I am so proud we can begin placing families in need of short-term emergency housing into these new programs starting in the next couple of weeks.”
In January, Mayor Bowser released her plan and timeline to close DC General Family Shelter by the end of 2018, keeping a promise to District residents to close – once and for all – the outdated shelter. In its place, smaller, more dignified programs are being built across the District. The Patricia Handy Place for Women, a low-barrier shelter for women in Ward 2, began operations in early 2016. The Ward 8 program will open in November. Short-term family housing programs are the centerpiece of Mayor Bowser’s transformation of the District’s emergency response system for families.
In September, Mayor Bowser announced the three service providers that her Administration selected to run the short-term family housing programs in Wards 4, 7, and 8. The Horizon, will be operated by Life Deeds; the Ward 4 program, The Kennedy, will be operated by The National Center for Children and Families; and the Ward 8 site will be operated by Community of Hope.
The Horizon is designed to meet the LEED Gold for homes and includes onsite stormwater quality control limiting offsite runoff, a green roof, energy efficient windows, and a high-efficiency HVAC system.
“We are excited to be part of the major effort to end homelessness in the District through the construction contributions we bring,” said Greer Johnson Gillis, Director of the Department of General Services. “Supporting Mayor Bowser’s HomewardDC Plan with the delivery of the Ward 7 short-term family housing site is a real cornerstone of our work.”
Establishing an effective crisis response system, including the development of smaller, community-based short-term family housing programs, is a key strategy of Homeward DC, the Bowser Administration’s strategic plan to make homelessness rare, brief, and nonrecurring. Beginning in May 2018, DHS ceased new placements at DC General Family Shelter. Since that time, DHS and partners have worked to support families and swiftly exit them from DC General and into permanent housing. At full-capacity, DC General provided shelter to 260 families. Today, only 34 families remain at the shelter.
As a result of the Homeward DC plan, the District has reduced overall homelessness by more than 17 percent in two years, and has reduced family homelessness by 40 percent over the same time. In addition to making unprecedented investments in affordable housing opportunities, the Administration launched a Homelessness Prevention Program which has successfully prevented a shelter stay for more than 5,700 families; increased investments in permanent housing programs by nearly 60 percent; expanded year-round access to provide immediate shelter for families in need regardless of the weather; and connected 3,900 single adults to permanent housing, including 1,700 veterans.