Justice Department Announces Settlement That Requires Homeless Shelters in Washington, D.C., To Provide Adequate Accommodations for Disabled
The Department of Justice on Friday announced that it has reached a settlement with Washington, D.C., officials that requires the district to make homeless shelters more accessible to disabled populations, including people living with HIV/AIDS, the Washington Times reports. According to a survey conducted in January by a contractor who administers the district's homeless shelter program, 2% of homeless people in the city are living with HIV/AIDS, 23% have a physical disability and 19% have a mental illness.
According to district officials, the "comprehensive plan" they are required to develop under the settlement will cost about $4 million to $5 million. The plan requires the city to make shelters more accessible, provide training for shelter employees, create policies to ensure accessibility and improve communication with disabled populations. The city also is required to bolster oversight of contractors who manage the shelter program and hold public hearings on the plan. According to the Times, the Justice Department began investigating the district after receiving complaints of what it called "widespread" Americans with Disabilities Act violations. The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless says that more than 6,000 people are homeless in the district on an average day, 47% of whom are "chronically homeless" (Ramstack, Washington Times, 12/13).
The D.C. Department of Health's HIV/AIDS Administration reports that there were at least 400 people known to be homeless and living with HIV/AIDS in the city as of December 2007; 75% were men and 83% were black. Nationwide, 3% to 10% of homeless people are HIV-positive -- about 10 times greater than the general population -- and the HIV/AIDS mortality rate among homeless people is seven to nine times higher than the general population, according to Nancy Bernstein, executive director of the National AIDS Housing Coalition (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/3).