My Testimony before the DC Council Committee on Human Services

Testimony at the DHS Oversight Hearing 3/13/2013 by the Rev. Michael Angell

Thank you Chairman Graham for this opportunity to speak, and thank you to the 82 people who came to testify today.  I know it will be a long wait, but your voice is necessary.   My name is The Reverend Mike Angell, and I am a priest at St. John’s Church on Lafayette Square and a member of the Washington Interfaith Network.   I rise today to speak on behalf of members of our organizations, members of our churches, members of our institutions, citizens of this city, voters in the district of Columbia, human beings who live, work and study without adequate housing.

I’m a preacher, and so I tend to talk about Jesus.  There is a story about Jesus standing up in the temple to read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  He read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me BECAUSE he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.”  Jesus does not say “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me AND the Spirit has anointed me.  That would just be a sequence of events.  Jesus says, BECAUSE.  The relationship between the Spirit’s anointing, the relationship between God’s blessing and good news for the poor is not casual but causal, because.  We need to bring good news to the poor.

We live in a city with a lot of poor people. Washington DC announced for Fiscal Year 2013  a $417 million budget surplus, but we can’t find the money to keep homeless shelters open.  The homeless have been told there is a multi-million dollar budget deficit this year for shelters.  In 2008 we projected that by 2014 we would end chronic homelessness.  We would house all the people who are disabled or elderly and who have been living on the streets for more than a year.  There are over 2000 homeless people in Washington waiting for Permanent Supportive housing.  There are waiting lists with hundreds of youth every night for the few shelter beds we have for homeless youth, and in the past months the funding for the youth homeless has been slashed, which means there are fewer beds.   All this is happening while we are hemoraging affordable housing in this city and raiding the Housing Production trust fund.  We should not be cutting programs in years of surplus.  We need to bring good news to the poor.

We need more beds for homeless youth.

We need to make good on our promise to house the chronically homeless with Permanent Supportive Housing.

We need more affordable housing in this city.

These priorities come from listening to members of our churches, synagogues, and mosques, listening to the voters in our institutions.  They care about housing the most vulnerable.  Washington Interfaith Network will be training members of our institutions in voter engagement every week between now and the end of the Fiscal Year 2014 budget cycle.  We will be engaging with this city government to have our priorities of youth homeless services, permanent supportive housing, and affordable housing heard.   This won’t be the last time you see us, you hear from us, around these issues.

We need to bring good news to the poor in this city.

You can see my testimony on the Council’s video feed here (my testimony starts at about 47:40)

Published by Mike Angell

The Rev. Mike Angell is rector of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in St. Louis.

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