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Kristy Greenwalt, the new executive director of the Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH), has unveiled changes that will be made this year to help the city meet federal guidelines for homeless services.

The ICH is a group of city leaders, homeless service providers and homeless advocates charged with informing and guide the District’s strategies and policies for addressing homelessness.

The federal HEARTH Act of 2009 mandates that all communities have a governing board to coordinate efforts to reduce and eventually eliminate homelessness. The Interagency Council on Homelessness is that governing board.

Changes are needed in the body’s appointment process, committee structure, voting and committee membership guidelines, Greenwalt said. The changes will bring the ICH in line with federal rules and will also help streamline efforts to end homelessness in the District, she explained.

”People in this community have been working hard, but we haven’t been working smarter and more effectively,” Greenwalt said at a recent meeting of the Coalition of Homeless and Housing Organizations (COHHO.)

Greenwalt, who is just starting her job at the ICH, said she welcomes ideas from the homeless community. Homeless advocates who were in attendance at the COHHO meeting wasted no time in offering their insights.

Robert Warren, executive director of the People for Fairness Coalition, called for more funding for subsidized housing programs.

“If a person qualifies for housing assistance, then they should receive it,” Warren said.
Greenwalt cautioned the audience to be realistic and to remember that housing is not funded as an entitlement. She noted that the city has some very effective programs, and is directing funds toward ending homelessness but that more work needs to be done to end homelessness.

It sounds like advocates have a lot more to discuss with Greenwalt.
Six Years of Sharing

On May 6, the homeless and formerly homeless members of the People for Fairness Coalition celebrated their group’s sixth anniversary.

The group has become a leader in raising awareness about homelessness since it began. Among other accomplishments, members took the lead last December in organizing an overnight vigil and march to help dramatize the tragedy of people dying in homelessness.

Robert Warren, the group’s executive director, presented certificates to members to recognize them for their work over the past year. Warren said the group’s work is important — the most critical part being self-advocacy.

Janelle Treibitz,a campaign organizer for the Fair Budget Coalition praised the group’s good instincts for working with the media.

Elizabeth Falcon, the campaign organizer for the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development, she she’s not willing to get up early for anything — except for the People for Fairness Coalition. Falcon said she continues to look forward to seeing group members early in the morning and late at night, coming together and fight for justice.