Background

The Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) is a group of cabinet-level leaders, providers of homeless services, advocates, homeless and formerly homeless leaders that come together to inform and guide the District’s strategies and policies for meeting the needs of individuals and families who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless in the District of Columbia.

The ICH was established by the Homeless Service Reform Act of 2005 for the purpose of facilitating interagency, cabinet-level leadership in planning, policymaking, program development, provider monitoring, and budgeting for the Continuum of Care of homeless services (HSRA, Sec. 4 (a)).

Recognizing their vast expertise and experience in navigating homeless services in the District of Columbia, the ICH has made critical improvements to facilitate the participation of currently and formerly homeless individuals in its structure and governance.

Definitions

Consumers: individuals that are currently or formerly homeless and have experience with the District of Columbia’s homeless services system.

Revised ICH Structure and Governance

As a result of the revised ICH structure and governance, approved by ICH members on June 17th, the representation of consumer advocates on the ICH and related committees is as follows, with 14 consumer seats in total:

ICH Appointments (4 seats)

Four seats for individuals that are currently or formerly homeless and have experience with the District of Columbia’s homeless services system.

Executive Committee (2 seats)

The Executive Committee is comprised of the ICH Chair (or his/her designee), Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services (or his/her designee), Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (or his/her designee), co-chairs of each standing committee, DHS, DBH, DCHA, DHCD, TCP, two consumers, one provider, one advocate, one private sector representative, and the ICH Executive Director

(non-voting).

Standing Committees (8 seats)

Under the reengineered ICH structure, there are four standing committees, each of which will be comprised of two consumer advocates, as follows:

Strategic Planning (2 seats)

Emergency Response and Shelter Operations (2 seats)

Housing Solutions (2 seats)

Data & Performance Management (2 seats)

Consumer Advisory Board:

In addition to the aforementioned committees, it is recommended that a Consumer Advisory Board, comprised of 12 consumer representatives, be created as a mechanism for holding the ICH accountable to its commitment of meaningfully incorporating the input of consumers into its strategic planning and policies. Because the Consumer Advisory Board was not included in the most recent changes to the ICH bylaws, it is not yet clear whether this body will be formerly adopted by the ICH in 2014. If a Consumer Advisory Board is created, its 12 consumer representatives should be recipients of the ICH consumer stipends in accordance with the policy below. However, if the Consumer Advisory Board is created in 2014, it is recommended that it be comprised of 12 consumer representatives that meet once per month. A proposed budget for the Consumer Advisory Board is as follows:

12 representatives x 12 meetings/year x $50/meeting = $9,480

Note: Changes in ICH structure and governance do not go into effect until the changes are made to the Homeless Services Reform Act of 2005 in the fall of 2014.

Stipend Calculation

Equipped with firsthand experience of homelessness and in depth expertise of the homeless services system of the District of Columbia, consumers are critical members of the ICH. Their participation in the ICH, Executive Committee, and Standing Committees will ensure that decisions and strategies to address homelessness in the District of Columbia are properly informed by the individuals that know the issue the best. In addition, consumers play a powerful role as conveners, who have access to and strong relationships with a wide range of service providers and individuals and families that are currently or formerly homeless. The participation of consumers on the ICH is also critical to holding D.C. government agencies and service providers accountable for making decisions that are responsible and relevant to the unique needs of the population.

The purpose of the consumer stipend is to compensate consumers for both their expertise and their time. In addition to the time spent traveling to and participating in ICH meetings, consumers will also spend time working on projects and activities related to their role as appointed consumer representatives. It is critical, therefore, that the stipend does more than compensate consumers for the exact hours spent in meetings each month.

Like all residents of the District of Columbia, consumers must be compensated at a minimum of the living wage of $13.60/hour. As such, consumers will receive stipends at the flat rate of $50 per meeting attended, which accounts for a living wage for the estimated amount of time spent at and traveling to meetings, travel fare, and additional compensation for expertise.

This flat rate, which will remain constant despite the length of meetings or amount of time and money spent traveling to and from said meetings sets an important precedent that consumers are not only being compensated for their time and expenses, but also for their important perspectives. However, the flat rate should be assessed on an annual basis to account for changes in the living wage in the District of Columbia.

Proposed Annual Budget

Full ICH Council Meetings:

14 representatives (4 ICH appointments + 2 Executive Committee seats + 8 Standing Committee seats) x 6 meetings/year x $50/meeting =                                 $4,200

Executive Committee:

2 representatives x 12 meetings/year x $50/meeting =                                         $1,200

Standing Committee Meetings:

2 representatives/committee x 4 committees x 12 meetings/year x $40/meeting =         $4,800

Planning/Community Events (20 x 2 people) x $40/meeting =                                 $2,000

______________________________________________________________________________

Total:                                                                                                    $12,200

ICH Consumer Stipend Policies[1]

Consumer stipends, in the amount of $50.00 per meeting, are available for elected or appointed, official participation in the following meetings:

ICH Council Meetings

Executive Committee Meetings

Standing Committee Meetings

Consumer stipends are intended to provide consumers with compensation for their time, expertise, and travel expenses.  In order for consumers to receive stipends, they must attend the full meeting.  Arriving 15 minutes late or leaving more than 30 minutes before the end of a meeting will result in no stipend. In the event that a meeting runs longer than the time allotted, consumers are not required to stay late and remain eligible to receive a stipend even if they leave before the official conclusion of the meeting.

Stipends will not be offered for participation in meetings at which the consumer is not an elected or appointed, official member. Additionally, stipends will also not be offered for participation in volunteer activities, optional meetings, speaking engagements, attendance at conferences, or for similar events (as determined by XXX), except community meetings for which their participation has been requested by the ICH. In the event that subcommittees are created to conduct specific activities, consumers appointed to such subcommittees will be eligible for stipends for their participation in subcommittee meetings. Additionally, in the event that consumer representatives are tasked with large projects or other bodies of work as part of their role in an official capacity, additional compensation should be considered for their time and expertise.

Given the time and expertise that consumers contribute to the ICH and its associated committees, it should be noted that $50 per meeting is considered the bare minimum that should be allocated to consumers for their contributions. It is recommended that this rate be evaluated on an annual basis and that significant effort be dedicated to increasing this amount and appropriating a line item in the annual budget for the purposes of consumer stipends.

ICH Consumer Stipend Procedures

Because it is not yet clear who will be administering the stipends on behalf of the ICH, the exact details of the stipend procedures are still to be determined. However, suggested procedures for the execution of stipends is outlined below and may be amended as appropriate, with input from consumers, the administering entity, and the ICH.  

Suggested procedures for securing stipends by appointed individuals or participants in committees are as follows:

  1. Consumer Participation: Consumers will submit the form to a designated XXX staff member; a copy of the form will be provided to the consumer. Consumer presence at a meeting will be verified by staff.

  1. Stipends will be issued by check.  All stipends will be processed once a month. All stipend forms must be submitted to XXX staff no later than the 5th of each month for the previous month’s participation at ICH, Executive Committee, or Standing Committee, or other approved meeting as determined by XXXX.

  1. In accordance with tax requirements, a 1099 tax form will be submitted to the IRS and issued to consumers who reach the minimum income reporting threshold as determined by the IRS.


NOTES AND RECOMMENDATIONS:

Administering Agency Options

It is recommended that the consumer stipends are issued by one of the following agencies, listed in order of preference:

  1. D.C. Interagency Council on the Homeless (ICH):

Despite the current lack of staff capacity at the ICH, the ideal situation is one in which the ICH itself is responsible and accountable for administering the consumer stipends. Given that the membership of the ICH and its associated committees is constantly changing, this is a more sustainable solution than tasking a specific individual that serves as a cabinet-level leader, provider of homeless services, advocate or consumer.

Further, having the ICH administer these stipends sends a powerful commitment about its commitment to ensuring that consumers are fairly represented at ICH meetings and compensated for their time and expertise. Additionally, this sets an important precedent from the inception of the stipend program that the onus for ensuring consumer representation at the ICH falls with the ICH and the DC government itself, not on service providers, advocates, or consumers.

  1. The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness:

As an independent, non-profit corporation that coordinates the District of Columbia’s Continuum of Care on behalf of the city, the Community Partnership is well poised to administer stipends for consumers elected to the ICH and its associated committees. As a standing member of the ICH, the Community Partnership for the Prevention of the Homeless already plays a leadership role within the ICH and is in a position to oversee the sustainability of the stipend program. While the Community Partnership does consist of service providers, their presence on the ICH is consistent and therefore a preferable option to service provider agencies that might rotate on and off of the ICH and its associated committees. Finally, as an independent non-profit, the Community Partnership may face less challenges in delivering financial compensation directly to consumers. While the ideal situation would be for an entity of the DC government to administer the stipend, perhaps using another non-governmental agency as a pass through, if this is not possible, an entity with independence is an alternative option.

  1. D.C. Mayor’s Office:

As the office in which the ICH Executive Director is housed, the Mayor’s office presents a viable option for administering the ICH consumer stipends. Recognizing that the capacity of ICH Executive Director is limited, it is recommended that additional staff be appointed to support the Executive Director and that this individual be tasked with the administration of the stipends.


Potential funding sources

Divided between 14 agencies, the annual budget of $12,200 for consumer stipends amounts to just over $871 per agency per year (or approximately $1,549 per agency with a Consumer Advisory Board). Contributions could be collected in the form of ICH member dues.

An alternative to this model is a scenario in which just the aforementioned government agencies, the Mayor’s office, and the private sector representative contribute to funding consumer stipends for the year. This would avoid tasking service providers and TCP with contributions, but would still require the additional administrative burden of ongoing changes in contributors according to the rotation schedule of appointed representatives. In this scenario, the amount required for the stipends would total $2,033 per agency per year (or $3,613 with a Consumer Advisory Board).

Considering the small amount needed to fund the cost of consumer stipends for each year, it is recommended that an annual appropriation in the amount of $12,200 (or $21,680 in the case of a Consumer Advisory Board) be allocated for this purpose under the Department of Human Services, Homeless Services Continuum - General. The benefit of this option is that it eliminates the administrative burden of collecting dues/contributions from ICH member organizations/agencies as well as that of collecting such payments from different entities in different years depending on the make-up of the ICH and its associated committees. Additionally, funding the stipend through the Department of Human Services Homeless Services Continuum sends a clear message that the Department is committed to ensuring that currently and formerly homeless individuals are able to participate in the decisions that impact them the most.

Potential impact on consumer eligibility for benefits

Because eligibility for benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and some housing programs are determined based on gross monthly income, it is possible that the issuance of ICH consumer stipends could impact the eligibility of appointed consumers to access such benefits. However, since eligibility for these benefits will vary for each consumer representative, it is nearly impossible to plan for each possible circumstance in the proposed ICH Consumer Stipend Policy.

As such, it is of critical important that careful attention is paid to this issue throughout the development and implementation of the ICH consumer stipend policy.  Once the policy is finalized, special efforts should be made by the ICH to clearly communicate the potential impacts of the stipends on consumer eligibility prior to their appointment and resources should be made available to assist consumers with navigating any changes to their eligibility.

Finally, consumers appointed to the ICH and its committees should have the option to take advantage of the stipend in full or any part thereof. Special efforts should also be made to allow appointed consumers to use their role on the ICH to satisfy work requirements, such as those required by TANF.

In the case of the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness, there has been only one incident in which a consumer’s receipt of a stipend resulted in her becoming ineligible for benefits.  However, it should be noted that the stipends currently issued by the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness are much lower than the rate proposed here ($15 or $25 dollars depending on the type of meeting) and that the Chicago stipend is intended to cover time and transportation costs only and is not intended to compensate consumers for their expertise, as is recommended in this proposal.


[1] The above Policies and Procedures have been adapted from the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness Consumer Stipend Policy, last updated September 1, 2012, which provides stipends in the amount of $25 or $15  for elected or appointed, official participation in meetings, depending on the meeting type.