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Testimony of Jean-Michel Giraud before the District of Columbia Committee on Human Services on DHS Oversight

Job First Model

Job First assumes employability and fosters self-sufficiency through job acquisition.

Good afternoon, Chairwoman Nadeau and Members of the Committee and thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify; I am Jean-Michel Giraud, the President & CEO of Friendship Place, and a former member of the District’s Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Friendship Place is a regional homeless-services provider serving over 3,700 persons with street outreach, hospitality, case management, youth services, medical and psychiatric services, shelter, prevention, rapid rehousing, and permanent housing in the District, and with job placement, youth, and veterans services in the greater DC Metropolitan Area. We also have a national impact through our exemplary best practices.

As providers of both onsite and scattered-site permanent supportive housing through our La Casa and Neighbors First programs, and short-term housing for families at the Brooks, we value the collaborative process we have developed with DHS. We would like to commend DHS on the creation of the COVID Housing Assistance (CHAP) Program and would like to offer a few thoughts and questions that might help DHS continue to expand its effectiveness in addressing homelessness.

As a non-profit addressing homelessness, Friendship Place provides both employment and housing services because we are aware of the powerful benefit of person-centered services that work closely together. We provide job placement services using a Job First model through our AimHire program, our privately funded program. Job First assumes employability and fosters self-sufficiency through job acquisition. Job First has a high rate of success, is cost-effective, and has been promoted at conferences across the country. Job First meets individuals where they are and fosters self-sufficiency through job acquisition. This type of person-centered empowerment model benefits program participants throughout the entire system of care.

  • Is there a way that we can help DHS work more closely with the Department of Employment Services? DOES (Department of Employment Services) is already seeing an increase in the number of job seekers because of the pandemic. Jobs are an integral piece of the puzzle in preventing and resolving homelessness. In the past, DHS and DOES have functioned as siloed entities, a model which does not work well in addressing wholistic problems which stretch across departments. More communication and coordination between these two departments would help tie together social services and job placement, in ways that could make both departments more effective.

Expanding Certification of Mental Healthcare Workers

“Additional certification options would open the system up to a more diverse pool of candidates.”

The pandemic has re-emphasized the sharp disparities in income, housing, and economic opportunities between white residents and residents of color in DC. The criteria for program oversight call for LCSW, LPC or RN licensure. Currently, most of the roles are filled by LCSW holders.

  • Would the District be willing to consider alternate credentials like the CPRP (Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner) certification from the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association? Additional certification options would open the system up to a more diverse pool of candidates. Seventeen states across the US use the CPRP as a recognized certification, which allows mental health professionals to work in psychiatric rehabilitation programs and eventually approve billing for Medicaid. Both Maryland and Virginia recognize this alternative for mental health professional certification. This additional option for certification could help people become certified based on their experience in the mental health field and broaden the diversity of available candidates.

Serving LGBTQ+ Youth

“Members of the LGBTQ+ community living in homelessness are more likely to experience discrimination, bullying, and violence both in and out of shelters.”

Friendship Place provides city-wide street outreach for homeless youth, approximately 40 percent of whom identify as LGBTQ+. Members of the LGBTQ+ community living in homelessness are more likely to experience discrimination, bullying, and violence both in and out of shelters. These experiences are ongoing for both adults and youth.

  •  Can DHS create response measures to prevent discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals, especially in large shelters, and develop a plan for LGBTQ+ inclusion? It is important to identify and address residual discriminatory behaviors, policies, and communications in our system of care.

Expanding Programs for Singles

Friendship Place joins with DHS in our desire to end homelessness in DC. As partners with DC-ICH, and in collaboration with other providers, our intent is to support DHS in the upcoming months as the eviction moratorium wears off, and many more individuals risk homelessness. We are encouraged by the ongoing efforts by DHS at fixing the singles shelters, but we would like to encourage the expansion of singles programming so that single individuals can receive the same enhanced level of support we are offering our families.

Racial Equity

The COVID-19 pandemic has sharpened the inequities of our economic system created by historic, systemic racism.

We are encouraged by the creation of the DC Council Committee on Racial Equity and support its efforts to do Racial Equity and Inclusion Assessments of the impact of all new legislation. A large majority of individuals and families experiencing homelessness are people of color. Eliminating and preventing homelessness in DC is a significant step forward in addressing the economic impact of racism in our city. We fully support and join with you in this effort.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak this afternoon.

Your Donation Helps End Homelessness!

Your support for Friendship Place has a lasting impact. In 2023, our programs ended or prevented homelessness for 4,993 people, including 1,507 children in families and 670 veterans. We empowered 167 people experiencing or at risk of homelessness to get jobs through innovative, state-of-the-art job placement services. Make a donation today in support of our work to end homelessness. Questions? Please feel free to call our fundraising office, 202.957.7834.

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