When I was applying to colleges as a senior in high school, I always wanted to go somewhere in the South. Why? Because in the South it never rains, and it’s always warm. Vanderbilt, Emory, Tulane – sunshine schools, just like . Georgetown? Apparently I’m much worse at geography than I realized, because D.C. certainly isn’t a summery city. Running around campus today, I had only one thing on my mind: warmth. Lucky for me, it was never far from my reach. Around this time of year, however, my mind tends to wander and think about those who aren’t so lucky: the homeless. Of course, it’s never easy to be without shelter, but the winter months are especially brutal: the unremitting winds, the rain and snow and the bitter temperatures. At least our society does its best to help our brothers and sisters on the street, right? Wrong. With a gun aimed right at the heart of homeless advocacy, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty fired a devastating shot earlier this month, cutting $20 million from the city’s homeless services budget. Budget cuts are to be expected in a diving economy like ours, but $20 million? That’s a lot of money, a lot of needed money, money that shelters and resource centers cannot go without. Christel Nichols told the Washington Post, “With these cuts, none of us can continue to serve the number of people we serve.” Nichols, who is the president of House of Ruth, the largest nonprofit organization in D.C. for victims of domestic abuse (one of the four major causes of homelessness), went on to say, “This is going to happen a whole lot faster than people think. There is no money to make up for this. Nobody has extra money sitting around to tide us over.” I’m not sure which is worse: Fenty’s cutbacks or his hypocrisy. These new cuts from the federal and local government budgets ($9 million and $11 million, respectively) are not Fenty’s first blows to the homelessness service industry. In September 2008, for example, the Fenty administration closed the Franklin School men’s shelter, which housed 300 homeless men. But while Fenty (who aims to “end” homelessness by 2014) wreaks havoc on the city’s most vulnerable, he puts up a façade of compassion and empathy. The day before the $20 million cut was announced, Fenty held a press conference at which he welcomed 22 elderly men and women – all formerly homeless – into their new apartments as a part of the Permanent Supportive Housing Program (PSHP). The program is “an initiative developed to provide permanent housing and supportive services to chronically homeless individuals and families,” and will receive $7 million less during the 2010 fiscal year than originally proposed in the 2009 fiscal year. During the press conference, Fenty smiled and stood for photo-ops with four grateful new tenants. “To warehouse our neighbors to cots and other places, it’s not humane, it’s not healthy and in a lot of instances it actually ends up costing us more money,” he said. I agree. Homeless shelters may not be the best permanent solution to an ongoing problem: The D.C. Village family shelter, for example, closed by the Fenty administration in 2007, was described by city officials as pest-infected and “inhumane.” And Fenty is right, in one sense. The PSHP is working; it provides a stable environment that can lead to self-sufficiency and quality of life improvements for its participants. For more than 600 homeless individuals, the dream of a safe, secure shelter – and a better life – has been granted. But what about the other 6,000-plus homeless in the District who do not benefit from the PHSP, including 1,400 homeless children? With the coming winter, are they expected to just deal with the extreme conditions on their own? Fenty’s heart might be in the right place (emphasis on the “might”), but his head is out of whack. The goal of ending homelessness is ambitious, yet admirable; the approach of the PSHP is slow, yet effective. The problem is, while we concern ourselves with getting 600 individuals back on track, we leave thousands more out in the cold, people who are dependent upon government resources that soon will no longer exist. D.C. law mandates that the city provide shelter to every single person when the temperature dips below 32 degrees or soars above 95 degrees, but what about when it’s 35 degrees outside? Can you imagine sleeping outside in that kind of weather? To shut these people out, especially because of such a technicality, is inhumane, plain and simple. The numbers aren’t looking any better, either: Since 2005, D.C. has seen a 3.4 percent increase in homeless persons, a situation aggravated by the recession and the foreclosure crisis. How can we cut back when more and more people find themselves in need? The homeless are perhaps the most downtrodden members of society, ostracized by their fellow citizens and abused by government officials through budget slashes like these. More than anyone else, they need help getting back on their feet. Reductions in funding and subsequent shelter closings are unacceptable, particularly with winter looming. Until the government has built enough apartments for every homeless man, woman and child, we cannot afford to cut off these vital resources. Fenty’s pledge to end homelessness by 2014 is promising, but until this issue is dealt with the right way – by avoiding unnecessary suffering – we’re hurting this segment of the D.C. population more than anything else. Conor Finnegan is a sophomore in the College. He can be reached at finneganthehoya.com. On the Road appears every other Monday at www.thehoya.com. *To send a letter to the editor on a recent campus issue or Hoya story or a viewpoint on any topic, contact [opinionthehoya.com](opinionthehoya.com). Letters should not exceed 300 words, and viewpoints should be between 600 to 800 words.*

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