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Mary Cheh, Jim Graham: D.C. should end homelessness within a decade

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder,D.C. Council,Mary Cheh,Jim Graham

Two District lawmakers are asking members of the D.C. Council to set a goal of ending homelessness in the city within 10 years.

"In a growing, thriving city like ours, there is no excuse for allowing individuals, families and children to live on the street, in a car, or without a home. We are deeply troubled by this problem and believe that we have a moral obligation to solve it," Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham and Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh wrote to other lawmakers.

They added: "As the council considers the District's fiscal year 2014 budget next week, we propose that we commit ourselves to doing all we can to end homelessness in the District within a set period of time - even as soon as five or 10 years."

The duo offered five recommendations to stem homelessness in the District, including a $53 million plan to offer permanent housing.

Cheh and Graham said they would like to use proceeds from Internet sales taxes to pay for the program, although Congress has not yet approved legislation that would allow states and the District to collect any of the online millions officials believe the city is owed.

Despite the lack of congressional action, the two lawmakers said they plan to introduce legislation on Tuesday that would earmark any future internet sales tax revenues for anti-homelessness initiatives.

Cheh and Graham are also pushing for the city to hire a "director to end homelessness," which would be a Cabinet-level post beginning in the 2014 budget.

Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, said the administration would review the proposal, but he said Gray favored a broad approach to combating homelessness.

"It's a laudable goal," Ribeiro said. "But homelessness knows no borders. The District has made significant gains in addressing homelessness within its jurisdiction, but it's going to take a regional commitment."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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