WASHINGTON - D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is asking the city council to act fast on a proposal to crack down on the homeless population in the city. If it passes, it would essentially make it easier to deny shelter to people who cannot prove they have lived in the District before they ended up on the streets.
Homelessness is a big problem in the city. Despite the mayor declaring the District of Columbia as a sanctuary city earlier this month and welcoming immigrants with open arms, she wants to be able to turn away some homeless families looking for shelter.
Bowser said immigrants will have to prove residency just like anyone else.
“Anybody, regardless of their immigration status, would have to demonstrate that they are a D.C. resident,” she said. “So we will work with the council to determine the best ways to do that. Are the children, for example, enrolled in school? Do they have utilities? Do they have a lease? Do they have any way to demonstrate that they live here?”
But when it comes to providing shelter for the homeless currently, Bowser said, “If you show up and you say you are homeless, we basically have to provide shelter. And when we do that, we may miss the opportunity and put a D.C. family at the end of the line because we are serving people from other jurisdictions.”
Tristia Bauman, a lawyer for the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, said the proposal will just make it more difficult for people in D.C. to get the help they need.
“To require someone to prove that they are from a particular area with documentation is a very difficult thing to implement and frankly is not very workable and will function to prevent people from accessing the services that they need,” said Bauman.
The city said it is currently spending $80,000 a night on hotel rooms for those who have nowhere else to stay. Bowser said those rooms should go toward D.C. residents who are facing true emergencies.