- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2019

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Thursday a city partnership with the private sector to help end homelessness in the District and create 36,000 affordable housing units by 2025.

The partnership — among the mayor’s office, the city’s Interagency Council on Homelessness and the Greater Washington Community Foundation — will aim to raise funds and resources from corporations to educate the public about homelessness, create affordable housing, and support work by nonprofit and advocacy groups on the issue.

“Because people are experiencing homelessness, it doesn’t mean they are defective people,” Miss Bowser told an audience of about 60 business leaders, city employees and journalists at the Eaton DC hotel in downtown Washington.

Members of the partnership set a goal to raise $35 million in the next three years to fund grants and invest in affordable housing. The funds will be used to help D.C. household earning less than 60% of the city’s $82,372 median income.

The A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation already has donated $1 million, and The Community Foundation has donated $5 million toward meeting that goal.

“When you invest in us, and you invest in one of the biggest health disparities in the country, you are helping to change someone’s life,” Rashema Melson said, addressing the business leaders at Miss Bowser’s announcement event. Miss Melson is a recent Georgetown University graduate who experienced homelessness for most of her life.

SEE ALSO: Washington, D.C., homelessness fix requires ending residency fraud

Corporate representatives who attended Thursday’s announcement included:

⦁ Larry Di Rita, Bank of America’s market president for greater Washington.

⦁ Jim Green, government relations official for the software company Salesforce.

⦁ Rekha Grennan, director of corporate affairs for Cisco Systems Inc.

⦁ Celeste James, executive director of community health at Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States.

⦁ Ann Marie Oliva, senior policy adviser for the Corporation for Supportive Housing.

⦁ Racquel Russell, vice president of government and community relations for the real estate database firm Zillow Group.

“Affordable housing is a top priority and I fully support the Mayor’s goal to expand access to housing for middle and lower income families by engaging in creative new ways of funding,” D.C. Council member Brandon Todd, Ward 4 Democrat, said in an email. “Between the Housing Production Trust Fund, the Housing Preservation Fund and the Workforce Housing Fund, our City is committed to building and preserving affordable housing in Ward 4 and throughout the District of Columbia.”

According to the 2019 Point in Time survey, the annual one-night head count of the city’s homeless, individual homelessness has decreased by 22% and family homelessness by 45% since Miss Bowser implemented her plan to combat the issue in 2016.

The mayor said Thursday there are still warning signs that cannot be ignored, such as the number of single adults accessing the District’s homeless services system has increased and income inequality is intensifying.

• Sophie Kaplan can be reached at skaplan@washingtontimes.com.

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