Testimony of Kimberly Perry Executive Director, before the Committee on Human Services

February 24, 2022
Testimony
Person Testifying: Kimberly Perry
Title: Executive Director, DC Action
Testimony Heard By: Committee on Human Services

Good morning, Chairperson Nadeau, members of the Committee on Human Services, and committee staff. I’m Kimberly Perry, Executive Director of DC Action. Through data, policy-advocacy, a racial equity lens, and powerful coalitions, we’re making the District of Columbia a place where all our children and youth grow up safe, resilient, powerful and heard.

The Youth Economic Justice and Housing Coalition has been working to ensure that all young people have safe housing and the wrap-around services they need to make the successful transition to adulthood. We want to thank you, Chairperson Nadeau, Director Zeilinger, and Director Silla for your longtime commitment to children and youth experiencing homelesness. Under your leadership, the District has become a national example of best practice in setting and pursuing a robust strategy to end youth homelessness.

Because of your longstanding commitment to youth shelter providers, I want to bring forward an imminent challenge confronting our coordinated system of supports. There are some serious concerns among our members who serve homeless youth regarding their DHS contracts.   Importantly, we are 21 weeks into the fiscal year and some shelter providers still do not have all of their DHS contracts in place, and almost ALL providers experienced significant delays in the contracting process this fiscal year. And, to add insult to injury, the amount of the contracts are flat or reduced, without prior notice or warning. This reality forces programs into a financial corner or into using privately raised dollars to temporarily cover these costs.

As a larger concern, DHS took the stance that the youth homelessness system did not need additional funding this fiscal year and that the funding was adequate. These potential cuts or even flat funding, stands in stark contrast to what is adequate. Each year, there are added costs that programs bear such as rent increases, food costs, staff salaries in a now competitive landscape, and PPE and pandemic accommodations even before considering any changes in negotiated indirect cost rates.

These changes in the program costs should be at the center of contract negotiations but DHS has not provided an opening for such a discussion.  There is also no way to know because there is no transparent basis for funding levels or parity within the system.

We hope these concerns will be alleviated by the analysis currently being conducted by the DC Policy Center on what the actual appropriate funding levels for youth homelessness programs are, but improvements in DHS program management, funding negotiations and trust must also be accomplished if we are  to build a robust system that centers effective support of our youth.  In the meantime, we request an immediate resolution to this dilemma so there is no negative impact on the number of or quality of services to our young people when they need us the most.