Making the Right Homeless Decisions


When Mayor Muriel Bowser, members of her team, and an assortment of local and regional public officials (along with the journalists covering them) return from their Cuban sojourn, they need to roll up their sleeves and decide how best to implement the mayor’s homeless housing plan.

Just about everybody in the city agrees that closing down D.C. General as a homeless shelter would be a good thing, long overdue. And if not a celebration, certainly there was praise in many quarters for Bowser’s (and former mayor Vincent Gray’s) plan to create a series of “smaller, dignified facilities” — in other words, temporary shelters spread throughout the city, in each and every one of the eight wards, a kind of share-the-pain-and-gain approach.

But the shelter locations, and how they were chosen, have already stirred up some opposition — not an unexpected development, given that there are always “we like the idea but not in my neighborhood” naysayers. Under the best of circumstances, even when voted for (as we’ve found in recent months and years), change runs into speed bumps and potholes.

The mayor anticipated opposition, which seems these days to be coming from Wards 1 and 5 and parts of Ward 3 and Ward 4. The reasons are sundry. Ward 5 representative Kenyan McDuffie remains one of the few Council members unhappy with the proposals. Other opponents complain about a lack of transparency in the site-selection process, into which they claim to have had no input. McDuffie said the site in his ward is very close to other social service facilities.

The mayor’s plan proposes seven shelters in seven wards (Ward 2 already has a women’s shelter). These sites would require extensive renovations, making for a somewhat lengthy process. However, some sites could begin to house homeless residents as early as next year. As sites become fully functional, the closure of D.C. General will be within reach.

One site has already come under heavy criticism from the public and the press: 2266 25th Place NE in Ward 5. According to nearby residents, this address, which is slated for 50 units, is in an industrial area with few stores or other conveniences. One resident said that it’s an industrial wasteland, next to a strip club.

While the mayor has said she’s not budging on the plan, the question ought to be asked: How does a location like that help those who are most in need of help?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *