Snowy benches in D.C.
credit: Matt Popovich/Flickr

As winter approaches, it becomes more dangerous for people experiencing homelessness to remain unsheltered. In preparation, the D.C. Interagency Council on Homelessness compiles a winter plan for each fiscal year, covering shelter capacity, transportation, and services. 

This year’s winter plan was approved on Sept. 11 by the D.C. ICH and will go into effect on Nov. 1. Most expanded services become available when a hypothermia alert is issued, based on forecasted temperatures at or below freezing, or near freezing with a high chance of precipitation. Hypothermia season technically lasts through March 31, though an alert and the legal right to shelter that accompanies it are called regardless of the date, whenever the temperature and/or precipitation criteria are met. 

[Read more: Long-standing hypothermia alert criteria updated to account for rain and snow] 

There were no sweeping changes from FY2018 to FY2019, but there were a few small additions that were specific to youth and youth shelters. There will be 25 shelter beds available for youth under the age of 18 — ten more beds than last year.   

A new plan to provide transportation specifically for youth was approved and added to the winter plan. Youth between ages 12 and 17 should call the Safe Place Hotline, operated by Sasha Bruce Youthwork at 202-547-7777 and “transition age youth” ages 18-24, should call the standard D.C. Shelter Hotline at 202-399-7093.  

These increased resources were based on the city’s strategic plans to end homelessness and specifically to end youth homelessness. Based on annual homeless census data, these plans estimate 10 more beds are still needed to accommodate homeless minors and 30 more beds are needed for transition age youth.  

“It is a data driven decision,” said Kimberly Waller, youth policy advisor for ICH. “In an ideal world, [we] would be able to say, ‘this is, in totality, the resources that we need.’ But in reality, it takes time to scale these things up.” 

Those with concerns about the winter plan can file a complaint with District authorities by emailing [email protected] or calling the complaint hotline at 202-673-4464. There is a D.C. Council oversight roundtable at the Wilson Building on Oct. 23 at 12 p.m. Anyone wishing to testify or suggest improvements should email [email protected] and provide their name, telephone number, organizational affiliation, and title by the close of business Friday, Oct. 19.