Friday, October 2, 2009

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty on Thursday announced that city officials have provided renovated apartments to 22 homeless seniors as part of a long-term effort to find housing for the city’s most vulnerable residents.

Since April 2008 the Fenty administration has found permanent homes for 144 homeless seniors, ages 60 and above, Mr. Fenty said.

“Our entire time in office we’ve been really focused on taking our homeless neighbors and moving them into housing,” Mr. Fenty said Thursday at a news conference. “We’re at 600-plus homeless neighbors who we’ve moved into permanent, supportive housing.”

The seniors who moved into the Wesley House Senior Apartments in Northeast Washington on Wednesday were selected as part of the mayor’s Permanent Supportive Housing Initiative - a collaboration between city agencies that includes the Office on Aging, the District of Columbia Housing Authority and the Department of Human Services.

The District’s Department of Housing and Community Development provided $3.1 million toward the construction of the apartment complex, which includes a community room, a library, a multipurpose room and a walking path.

Four of the 22 seniors who were placed in the apartments appeared with Mr. Fenty for the announcement.

Webb Johnson, 78, had been living in homeless shelters for over a year after he lost his job and was removed from his home.

“I’m so happy to have heat and a roof over my head,” Mr. Johnson said. “I am no longer stuck up in a filthy shelter.”

The Fenty administration has been working to reach a goal set in 2004 by then-Mayor Anthony A. Williams to eliminate homelessness in D.C. by 2014.

The Department of Mental Health on Thursday also placed nine homeless people with mental illnesses into newly renovated apartments.

Council member Tommy Wells, the Ward 6 Democrat who chairs the District’s Human Services Committee, said the Department of Mental Health housing initiative has an 85 percent success rate in keeping formerly homeless people from returning to the streets.

He said the initiative can also reduce the city’s demand for emergency medical services, which many of the homeless rely on.

“This is a way to help the chronically homeless who are most vulnerable find the medical attention they need.” Mr. Wells said.

Mr. Fenty said housing units are preferable to homeless shelters.

“To warehouse our neighbors to cots and other places, it’s not humane, it’s not healthy and in a lot of instances it actually ends up costing us more money,” Mr. Fenty said.

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