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Ward 1 Lacks ‘Luxury’ to Keep Out Homeless Shelter, Mayor Tells Critics

by Andrew Ramonas February 12, 2016 at 10:35 am 8 Comments

Mayor Muriel Bowser

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.

Comments (8)

  1. Thank you for a comprehensive and representative account of what transpired in the meeting last night. Other news outlets (NBC in particular) seemed intent on providing quotes and reactions from the most extreme views presented last night. As a resident of the area, the most powerful statement I heard was if there was any thought given to the location close to Garfield Terrace. Crime and vagrancy in that area has gotten worse since we moved in 3 years ago – is that really a location that we want to house these vulnerable families?

  2. So you’re really just concerned about “these vulnerable families”?

    Right.

    What does the location of Garfield Terrace have to do with anything? (Please note that it was here long before you.) Subsidized housing represents a tiny percentage of the housing in our neighborhood.

  3. Uh, Garfield Terrace has more of “those people.” You haven’t seen all “the marauders.”

  4. NE Shaw Resident

    Oh yeah, I’m really concerned about 29 single mothers or families with small children. Please, don’t be obtuse. That corner has been an ugly scar in the neighborhood for some time. The building will be a mass improvement and based on what I heard last night, I have no problem with the concept as presented.
    However, that doesn’t change the fact I do not believe the city did enough due diligence on that site in particular. I encourage you to go to one of the monthly police department community meetings if you don’t think Garfield is a problem in the area. Until then, I think it’s sufficient for me to say my concern stems from the fact my house has been the target of robbery attempts twice in the last 6 months. That the alley that runs through the middle of the block is a haven for drug use. That a 30-year ground lease might not be the best solution.
    No, instead you keep your head in the sand and rather imply that I have some racist undertones to my concern. I guess it’s much easier that way than dealing with the reality of the situation.

  5. I have lived three blocks from Garfield Terrace and about the same from 10th & V for almost 13 years. There was an attempted break-in at my place two weeks ago. I’ve had a gun pointed at me during an armed robbery. I’m been to numerous community meetings on crime over the years. I’m under no illusions about the issues that still remain in this neighborhood.

    None of that changes the fact that we need to provide housing for families dealing with homelessness in DC. If not at 10th & V, where? Somewhere where it will be someone else’s problem, no doubt. That is obviously how you would like to deal with the “reality of the situation.”

    Nothing I said implied you are racist. If you are, I feel sorry for you. I certainly did not suggest it.

    I will say that you are insensitive to the needs of some of our fellow citizens of DC.

  6. If you want to keep the homeless out of your neighborhood because of NIMBY, you are a terrible person and I hope you somebody develop a heart and some compassion.

  7. I used to live on the 2000 block of 10th St NW and there is no way the crime and vagrancy is more than it was in 2001 – 2006. The neighborhood is high end condos all around now. It was very low-cost housing, a huge section 8 apartment complex, auto repair shops (Good ol Martin!) and quite a colorful assortment of folks. While I lived on that block, a prostitute helped me catch my run-away dog and Jason, the brilliant but not stable more-or-less homeless guy on the block, would chat with me on the stoop. In that time the house was also broken into and a man died on the playground of the daycare at 10th and V. Oh and the pop-up on W street collapsed – that was a fun day. Anyhow, there is no way the block is worse that it was… it’s much better and it’s much harder for the poorest folks to get by.

  8. Minor criticism regarding the headline: The mayor said “I don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘Hey, I don’t think Ward 1 should be a part of the homeless solution,’”

    She didn’t say Ward 1 doesn’t have that luxury. Your headline and article say different things.

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