At Last, A Big Win in the Fight to End Homelessness

October 04, 2021


Searching for a new church more than 10 years ago, I was looking for a community with a special kind of social justice commitment. As a Christian, I take very seriously Jesus’ calls to love our neighbor and do justice. As a public policy graduate student focusing on poverty, I had specific ideas of what effective social justice work should look like. Goals should be clear. Commitment should be sustained.  Goals can take years to achieve. Churches should partner with people with lived experience and knowledgeable organizations.

I found all this at Foundry. Foundry’s work to end chronic homelessness began about 15 years ago when housed residents of Foundry’s rapidly gentrifying neighborhood began to complain about people sleeping on our steps. Most of these individuals were chronically homeless; they had been homeless for a long time and had one or more disabilities.

With other members of the Washington Interfaith Network, Foundry successfully advocated for a new housing design that had shown promising results in other cities, permanent supportive housing (PSH). This program combines long-term affordable housing with tailored wrap-around services.

By the time I started attending Foundry, the District had stopped putting significant new investments into PSH. But Foundry did not give up. Every year, we advocated for more permanent supportive housing.

Frustrated by the lack of progress, organizations and people who have experienced homelessness formed The Way Home campaign in 2014 to advocate more effectively. Foundry was among its first members. The organization I work for, the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, was another.

Finally, this year, all this work paid off. DC’s budget for next year includes permanent supportive housing for more than 2,300 individuals, three times DC’s largest previous investment in PSH!

As a participant in this effort, I have had the joy of seeing Foundry’s unique contribution to the work of ending chronic homelessness. This past June, right before the first vote on the budget, Foundry held a vigil to honor the 42 people who had died while homeless this year. That number included Jose Antonio Navarro, a homeless day laborer who slept on Foundry’s steps. That vigil was mentioned by two City Council members to emphasize how urgent this need was and rebut objections to the tax increase on high-income residents that funds nearly half of the new investment.

Kate Coventry has attended Foundry for more than 10 years and is a leader with the Sacred Resistance Team, specifically focused on homelessness advocacy. She works to end homelessness and poverty in DC and enjoys reading, knitting, and British tv.