Mayor Muriel Bowser last night had tough words for critics of her plan to put homeless families in a new facility near the U Street corridor, telling locals their community has a responsibility to help the District’s poor.
Speaking before more than 100 residents crowded into a room inside the YMCA Anthony Bowen, Bowser defended her proposal to place up to 29 families in transitional housing at 2105-2107 10th St. NW by 2018 under her plan to close the D.C. General homeless shelter.
The property at 10th and V streets NW, which is about two blocks west of the 9:30 Club, currently includes an unused church and a vacant lot. But Bowser is looking to use the land for a “modern building [that] will complement the look and feel of the neighborhood,” according to a handout from the mayor’s office. In addition to apartment-style housing, the facility is slated to have playground and recreation space, a computer lab for residents, a common dining area and ongoing support services and programming for families.
“I don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘Hey, I don’t think Ward 1 should be a part of the homeless solution,'” Bowser said. “I don’t have that luxury because I have the obligation to provide shelter to 1,000 people. You don’t want us to have that obligation? Then something has to change in the law.”
Locals at the meeting mostly appeared supportive of helping house homeless families in Ward 1. But some of them had concerns about adding more low-income homes about two blocks from the Garfield Terrace public housing complex and expressed frustration that D.C. officials picked the shelter location without public feedback.
“Mitch,” who declined to give his last name, said during the discussion he has “very little faith” that the shelter will be a success due to the mayor’s decision not to speak with residents about the facility’s site before her announcement Tuesday. The man, who also goes by the moniker “10th and V Shelter,” is behind an effort to organize a group of locals to oppose the plan.
“There are so many risks that are not being acknowledged, and we’re not being given an honest chance for feedback,” he said, drawing some applause.
Bowser said her administration had to keep the decision-making process secret in order to give any location in Ward 1 a chance at succeeding.
“You know this in your heart that for us to be able to go and locate such facilities, we can’t go out and have all of the sites torpedoed before we have the opportunity to develop them, tell you what types of services are going to be there and present them in the most forthright way that we have,” she said.
Nakiya Whitaker, like many people who spoke last night, said she stands behind the mayor.
“I encourage the naysayers to support any opportunity to give others the opportunity to benefit from the investments that have been made in the city,” Whitaker said.