The National Coalition for Housing Justice (NCHJ) sent a letter to the Biden administration and the National Park Service (NPS) on February 6 urging the administration to immediately halt efforts to sweep encampments of people experiencing homelessness in Washington, D.C.’s McPherson Square and all other national parks in the absence of adequate housing. The letter calls on the administration to build on the success of the House America initiative by working proactively with the District’s government to ensure that unsheltered individuals are rehoused using best practices and evidence-based solutions. NCHJ sent a similar letter to District officials urging them to halt their plans. NCHJ is a group of national organizations, including NLIHC, dedicated to ending homelessness by achieving housing justice through pursuing racially and economically equitable policies that affirm the right of everyone to an affordable, safe, accessible, and stable place to call home.
NPS announced on February 2 that it plans to sweep an encampment of unhoused individuals living in McPherson Square two months earlier than scheduled – during hypothermia season – before all unhoused individuals in the encampment receive housing. As of February 2, only 15 individuals of the estimated 70 who live in the park had been approved by the District government to receive available housing assistance. Even for those who have been approved for housing assistance, there exist systemic barriers to identifying units and receiving services that make the prospect of rehousing them within the next 10 days unlikely. Furthermore, park residents have been waiting for months for help with case management, which was promised to them by the District government and which would help them find stable housing.
The letter urges the Biden administration to immediately halt the sweep and instead stand by the strategies adopted in the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) All In: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. The decision by NPS to sweep encampments in McPherson Square and elsewhere without first ensuring individuals have been connected to housing is in direct conflict with the agreements made by the U.S. Department of the Interior and other USICH member agencies. Moreover, a sweep conducted by NPS directly undermines the Biden administration’s commitment to using a person-centered, Housing First strategy. As is made clear in the Federal Plan itself, the scheduled sweep will only further harm individuals struggling to survive and make it even more difficult for them to exit homelessness.
The letter calls on the Biden administration to urge the District government to immediately halt its efforts in order to provide stakeholders from community-based and philanthropic organizations and government, as well as those with lived experience, reasonable time to create and implement a plan to connect individuals living in McPherson Square to housing, as called for in the Federal Plan.
As outlined in the letter, NCHJ fears that any departure by the Biden administration from using evidence-based solutions undermines the success of the House America initiative, conflicts with the goals of President Biden’s Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, and sends the wrong message to communities about how to address unsheltered homelessness at a time when harmful, dehumanizing measures to criminalize homelessness are gaining traction across the nation.
Read the letter to the Biden administration at: https://bit.ly/3IbeGJb
Read the letter to District officials at: https://bit.ly/3JOR3Hn