(Updated at 4:16 p.m.) Though the D.C. Council voted yesterday to alter Mayor Muriel Bowser’s plan to close the D.C. General homeless shelter and open seven smaller shelters across the District, some Ward 1 residents remain skeptical.
Under the new plan initially approved by the D.C. Council, the city would build the new shelters on city-owned land as opposed to private land, meaning a change of location for three of the five proposed shelters. Though the proposed site of the Ward 1 shelter won’t change, the city will now work toward purchasing the land at 10th and V streets NW instead of leasing it as originally planned.
D.C. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, an advocate of the proposed Ward 1 shelter, said in a statement the revised plan “responds to residents’ concerns and is much more fiscally responsible than the Mayor’s original plan.”
“Purchasing will save millions of tax dollars over the original plan to lease the land and will give the District permanent ownership of each site,” Nadeau continued. “Additionally, I introduced an amendment to today’s legislation that will hold the Ward 1 property owner accountable for any back taxes owed on vacant property that was misclassified. This was a very important issue for several of our nearby constituents, and I’m glad we have been able to address it.”
But members of a vocal protest group opposing the shelter remain skeptical of the deal despite the changes.
Tim Sulak, a resident who lives close to the proposed site, said that although pushing to own instead of leasing the land is a step forward, the deal still doesn’t add up to him. He questions why the city continues to involve developer Sorg Architects despite having potentially cheaper options.
“There is plenty of D.C./government owned land in the area,” he wrote in an email. “These shelters should go on these properties. They are already paid for and makes the most sense no matter where they are.”
Another local, who identified herself as “Mandy,” said she feels like the city hasn’t been forthcoming with residents.
“We haven’t been provided with options on where a shelter in Ward 1 could be located and what the total cost is for each site,” she wrote. “It still looks like there is public land available to build new homeless shelters that will cost less than purchasing private land.”
Mandy continued: “If owning land drives the cost down at the 10th and V St NW, then that’s likely a better alternative than renting it. However, it still looks like there is public land available to build new homeless shelters that will cost less than purchasing private land [as noted in this Washington Post article].”
Ward 1 resident Debby Prigal said that though she agreed “owning is better than leasing, there is still a serious risk that the taxpayer will be fleeced. They should not pay more than market rate for the land.”
Several other residents who didn’t want us to use their names shared similar comments. Most expressed concern over, as one of the activists said at a meeting last month, the plan to use “the homeless as a vehicle to deliver profits to just certain developers.” And all of the residents we talked seemed to say the same thing: the issue is far from over for them.
The D.C. Council will likely hold a final vote on the plan in June, reported the Washington Post.