Dear PoP – What are the Central Union Mission Plans?

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“Dear PoP,

Do you have any details on this project mentioned below? I think we need to know what exactly Central Union Mission is planning. Building a shelter or more subsidized housing in Columbia Heights or Petworth is a step in the wrong direction. I think now is the time for some community action to make sure the thoughts of the community are heard.”

ANC1A Special Public Meeting
Wednesday, September 16th
Location: TBA


Official Business
Official Business is limited to 5 minutes of presentation (unless extended by the commission) followed by questions from the commission and audience until a motion to close discussion is passed, followed by an official ANC vote.

ANC1A will consider the BZA Application for the Central Union Mission’s affordable housing project on Georgia Avenue.

Case Number : 17717
Case Name : Application of Central Union Mission
Case Summary : (Special Exceptions) pursuant to 11 DCMR § 3104.1, for a special exception to allow the construction of a mixed-use building with community-based residential facility and ground floor retail (totaling in excess of 12,000 sq. ft. of land area) pursuant to subsection 1329.2(b) (ZC Case No. 06-48), in the GA/C-3-A District at premises 3506-3512 Georgia Avenue, N.W. and 714 Newton Place, N.W. (Square 2895, Lots 825, 826, 830 and 831).
ANC : 1A08

Last we heard about this in April 2008 the Central Union Mission was not coming to Georgia Ave. At the time Council Member Graham wrote:

“We have re-defined the project to include real progress for lower Georgia Avenue. Instead of a 170-bed men’s shelter on the 3500 block of Georgia Avenue, there will now be mixed-income housing.”

So it seems that mixed-income housing would be a fine fit for that location. I had concerns with a 170-bed shelter but I have no problem with mixed-income housing. What do you guys think? Anyone have more specific plans?

65 Comment

  • Torn on this one. Used to live near the Mission on 14th and is definitely had some smelly characters who would hang out nearby all day, setting up milk crates on the sidewalk etc. On the other hand I don’t want to be a NIMBY. They need a clean safe place to live. Seems like the Central Union is following me around as my old neighborhoods get gentrified.

  • Mixed-income is the way to go. Shouldn’t shelters be located near the people they serve. Downtown is too valuable I understand but there have to be a better options than GA Avenue.

  • I support the type of mixed income that will help teachers, firemen, and cops live closer to the people.

    I do not support the kind of low income housing on 14th street just south of Target that attracts crime and drive-by shootings.

  • Again, the truly needy amongst us get sold out. Same old song.

  • What they are trying to do is very transparent. They want to get the special exception and build the building and the change the use to a shelter for men. Georgia Avenue will be doomed if this happens.

  • Absolutely unecceptable. I will fight this tooth and nail.

  • No to Central Union on Georgia Avenue. Give these men more stable housing in a safe environment. The 100 bed shelter approach is a complete failure! No more!

  • I would be fine w/ a much smaller project, but something of this size has the potential to be really detrimental to the community.

    We need to organize now to fight this now. Can anyone out there with experience at haulting such projects suggest how to get started?

  • Citizenry is about the last group our gov’t will listen to. Don’t forget, poor folks are worth big money to this city, each one probably garners $1 million per year in HUD and other federal funds. Like slaves of old, but with better margins (for some).

  • So will this be “mixed income” with retail at the bottom like the apartments at the Metro or something else? And how do homeless folks fit into the “mixed income” if many of them have no income? Please to explain.

  • You folks are seriously getting organized to defeat affordable housing? *shakes head*

  • The special exception language reads specifically like it is NOT mixed-income housing and IS “community-based residential facility.”

    (which I read as shelter. but I could be wrong.)

  • voiceofreason: I don’t think a homeless shelter counts as affordable housing as it’s not supposed to be a permanent place of residence. And I don’t think anyone here is against the mixed income housing that is now being proposed.

  • Terrible idea. While this would provide services to a few needy people. It would set the area back in terms of economic development. This would hurt far more people in terms of jobs and quality of life.

  • VOR, if all the tax-paying citizens move out because the homeless shelter in their neighborhood is noisy/dirty/unsafe, who do you think is going to pay for social services in the next generation?

    You constantly advocate for things that cost money, yet decrease quality of life for the people who are paying for them. (Or, you rail against things that increase quality of life, and contribute to the tax base.) If you insist on spending tax dollars on things that not only don’t benefit tax-payers, but are an active detriment to their quality of life, you will soon find yourself with no tax-payers, and… wait for it… no money for social services.

    I think it behooves you, as a pie-in-the-sky bleeding heart, to think about fattening up the cash cow. Better quality of life for tax payers = more tax payers = more tax revenue = more money for social services in the long run. I don’t know why you have such a hard time grasping this.

  • The Mission has been in my backyard (more or less) for the past 8 years, and I’ve never had any problems. I don’t care if they stay where they are.

  • The Mission has revised its plans and has stated without any qualifications there will be NO homeless shelter or community-based residential facility (CBRF) on Georgia Avenue. The Georgia Avenue Commercial Overlay requires a special exception for ANY use if the property contains more than 12,000 square feet in land area. The Mission’s property is larger than 12,000 square feet. The Mission (or anyone else for that matter) still requires a special exception to put the property to use.

    The special exception application has been revised to propose 37 residential units, reserved for families earning between 50% and 80% of the Area Median Income (which is approximately $102,000 for a family of four in Washington, so think firefighters and teachers here). The building will have retail on the first floor along Georgia Avenue, and some office space in the core of the building.

    No services for the homeless. Period.

  • Median income is 66,985 +/-9,299 according to US census data for a family of four, and then you take 50%-80% of that.

    Please don’t confuse mixed-income with middle-income.

  • Affordable housing does not mean subsidized, low income or project. I am all for affordable housing – lets keep city workers, teachers, firefighters, etc in DC and give them reasonable homes as an incentive.

  • The District of Columbia Zoning Regulations define “low-income households” as those earning 50% or less of the Metropolitan Statistical Area median income as certified by the Mayor and “moderate-income households” as those earning between 51% and 80% of the Metropolitan Statistical Area median as certified by the Mayor.

    From the Deputy Mayor: “residents earning between 50 percent and 80 percent of the Area’s Median Income, which is between $51,000 and $82,000 for a family of four”,a,1368,q,610025.,dmpedNav_GID,1790,.asp

  • The way I understand “affordable housing” is it’s a tax incentive offered by the government to apartment buildings that agrees to keep a percentage of their properties with residents under a certain income level.

    When my finace and I were looking for an apartment last year, we stumbled upon a spot in Forest Glen that classified itself as affordable housing. They had caps on how much money a household of so many people could make to live there. My fiance and I make around 32 and 35K a year. Not much at all. But our combined income was 1K higher than it could be for two people to live there. They couldn’t lease it to us.

    But even with the caps, the rent was still much higher than anyone on government assistance could afford. Affordable is not low-income. These would be middle class people.

  • Hey if “Not a CBRF” is right then why does the ANC accouncement say:

    “Case Summary : (Special Exceptions) pursuant to 11 DCMR § 3104.1, for a special exception to allow the construction of a mixed-use building with community-based residential facility and ground floor retail”

    This seems like a really scary de ja vu! I even had to look twice at the date of the post.

    If this is for affordable (workforce) housing – read employed, firemen, police, teachers, etc. then welcome. But if this is going to be a backdoor way to get a Central Union Mission smaller homeless shelter – forget it!

  • Make no mistake this is a back door. At theANC meeting the contradicted themselves by saying they did not have enough money to build out the Gale School even with the city paying for half, but they say also that they have enough money to build this and a shelter somewhere else. They want to get the special exception and then change the use. Its a clear bait nd switch.

  • Bastards! The community worked very hard on this last year with the help of Jim Graham and Mayor Fenty. A compromise was developed with the City that made resources available to have the Mission build out a shelter at the Gale School downtown. Everyone was happy!

    Now they come back looking for a zoning exception to be granted under the pretense of a mixed use project that AFTER being granted could be used for ANYTHING ELSE they want to build (read: some form of shelter).

    I for one feel these guys have already been given the benfit of the doubt back in 2007. I don’t think the community should entertain any proposal they suggest because… they can’t be trusted.

    Back to the barricades…

  • If it is workforce housing, why doesn’t it say so?
    I’ve never heard of individual units being referred to as ‘community-based residential facility’.

  • When they did try to build the shelter here a couple of years ago they were very sneaky about it and tried to move things through before the community knew what was going on or could react. When folks finally were informed about what they were doing they lied to us and misled us on many occasions (odd behavior for a supposed religious group). The point is, we know who they are and that we can’t trust them, and we have to stay on top of this until we know for certain that the central union mission cannot come to Georgia Avenue.

    Question, if their true motivation is to provide services to the homeless, and they have a piece of land in the center of the city that is currently a homeless shelter, why don’t they focus their efforts on that shelter at that location?

  • The ANC notice says “CBRF” because it is from the original application advertisement. The revised advertisement, which is posted on the property and included in the Applicant’s pre-hearing statement (and discussed at the regular ANC meeting on Wednesday night) reads:


  • “until we know for certain that the central union mission cannot come to Georgia Avenue.”

    Well this nearby home owner is not included in that “we”. I welcome the central union mission to Georgia Avenue with open arms, assuming it is a real homeless shelter and/or low income housing unit.

  • Thank you, voiceofreason. It would be great to have more facilities of this kind around the city, and especially in Petworth, where there really are quite a few people without homes. I’d like to hear some actual statistics out of one of you objectors about crime rates and shelters before you work so hard to keep a project worthy of consideration from moving forward. The funny thing is that even if you could provide them, I’d probably still vote in favor of establishing a shelter in our area.

  • A shelter makes far more sense downtown. Building a shelter in this area would hurt the community far more than it would help the homeless.

  • The homeless are not separate and distinct from the community, they are part of it. Helping the homeless around here IS helping the community. I agree that a homeless shelter makes sense downtown. There should be one downtown AND one in Parkview/Petworth/CH/Pleasant Plains/Whatever you wanna call this glop of neighborhoods.

  • Dear voiceofblablabla, get real.

  • What is unreal about what I said? There are homeless people who live in the community who need services.

  • I’m not against give homeless people services if they aren’t drunks, druggies, or people who want to work. But statistically, 80% have a substance abuse or mental health issue that is bad for the community.

  • Even if that is true Take5, they are better served with shelters with social workers than wandering the street.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    I’ll be posting about this again Sunday night with comments from the ANC and a response from a rep. of the Central Union Mission. Stay tuned…

  • You said it, “better served with shelters with social workers than wandering the street.” Too bad baby, but this isn’t what the mission provides. They serve up the gospel, which aint bad, but alone it doesn’t keep the 200 men they want to move into our neighborhood from crime, public disorder, drugs, etc.

    And to move 200 homeless men to a single neighborhood, and say that you are doing good by that neighborhood, that doesn’t make sense.

  • They come to DC because DC has a reputation as a lawless land where homeless are permitted to wander the streets and harass pedestrians. Just because a vagrant has physically wandered into DC does not mean that the vagrant is part of the community.

    I’m not against the homeless, and I am not against services for the homeless, but I am 100% against the concentration of homeless in my neighborhood. I am also against the concentration of poverty. Affordable housing is one thing. I support that, but I do not and can not support the concentration of poverty. It is bad for the community. It is a step in the wrong direction.

  • I don’t understand what “concentration of poverty” really means. Shelters have to go somewhere, wouldn’t a shelter be a “concentration of poverty” no matter where it goes? Would it then be “bad for the community”, whatever community it goes into, under that logic? If so, you really could care less about the homeless, you just want them out of sight and somebody else’s problem.

    I’m not for vagrants harassing anyone, but I think that’s quite a broad stereotype of homeless folks.

    I’d like to know more about the Mission’s plans. Will they be merely moving homeless from other parts of the city into Parkview? Will they be serving the homeless that already hang out in the neighborhood? Is Sleepless correct in asserting that the Mission provides ministering, but nothing else in the way of social work?

    I wish I could attend the meeting on Wednesday, but I work that night. I look forward to updates.

  • I don’t know if this specific proposal is the best model for a shelter, but I am shocked by some of what has been written.

    There really is no “us” and “them” here. It’s not productive to take that attitude. The homeless in the Petworth area are just as much a part of the community as anyone else, and some of them have lived here much longer than you or I. Yes, the rate of drug use and mental health problems is higher among the homeless. Deal with it.

    It is completely hypocritical to say that you support services for the homeless but just don’t want them around you. You can’t have it both ways. Serving the needs of the community means serving the needs of everyone who resides here, whether or not they own property.

  • i’m sorry but if they move a mission with an existing population into petworth, that’s going to mean moving a population of homeless people into petworth right? people that were not part of the community then become part of the community.

    on a separate but related note, why do people always talk about “affordable housing” being for “teachers, cops and firefighters?” Do you know what cops make in this city? they start at $50K and base salary goes up to $75K – this is before moonlighting, overtime, etc.

    for teachers its $58K – again, an average; half make more:,+DC

    again this is for a single person, not a family, and doesn’t include summer employment or other add-ons.

    just an FYI

  • No artificial concentration of poverty. It breeds crime.

  • There are so-many hard-working professionals who can’t afford to live in the city. I will concede that between the 1950s and the early 2000s, the preference was to live in the suburbs, but the sun is setting on that model. Before the 1950s (going back hundreds of years and more) and moving forward into the future, the preference is to live in city/community centers.

    Again, there are families that make $100,000/year who can’t afford to live in the city. Living in the city is not a right. You should have to work for it.

    Artificially concentrating poor people hurts the city and retards progress. It leads to a smaller tax base, fewer consumers which means fewer successful stores and restaurants, higher crime, and another generation of folks who are raised on the premise that they are entitled to a government hand-out.

  • Well, first off, I believe in the premise that those who can’t provide for themselves are entitled to a government hand-out. So I’m not too worried about that one.

    If “working for it” are the criteria to live in this neighborhood, I suggest we go door to door and start throwing out the folks whose parents pay their rent or mortgage, throw out anyone who is between jobs, and anyone else who doesn’t fit your imposed worthiness to be here.

    The neighborhood is already concentrated with poor people. This entire city outside of a few neighborhoods is concentrated with poor people. Pushing them around from place to place is short term foolishness.

    I hope the decision makers here will ignore the NIMBY a-holes and do what’s right.

  • Anonymous wrote, “Living in the city is not a right. You should have to work for it.”

    Where would you like to put the people who you have judged to not be entitled to reside in your general vicinity? Do you think people are homeless, jobless, or both by choice?

  • Do you think people are homeless, jobless, or both by choice?

    How is this the point of whether or not a bunch of lonny toons should get to open a mega homeless shelter on Georgia Avenue.

  • “NIMBY a-holes?” Nice voiceofblablabla, you have made a great point here.

  • The point came in all that was written above my indiscretion.

  • I am for homeless shelters, but I don’t think they should be put in neighborhoods that are progressing. It’s a step in the wrong direction.

    Georgia Ave is at a cross roads. It’s run down now, but it’s quickly improving. If we put a homeless shelter or low-income housing, that will prevent it from reaching its potential and will likely cause its progress to stall or even regress.

  • The plans call for no more than 80 or so beds, how is that a mega-anything? And why do you think the mission is loony?

  • But how are you defining “progress”?

  • So homeless shelters can only be in areas that are not “progressing” or “at a cross roads?” That’s the same “artificial concentration of poverty” you protested before, is it not?

  • No, it’s not. If the area is already poor, then it’s not concentrating it further. It’s just more poor in an already poor area.

  • And if that poor area starts to progress, it’s ok to move the shelter again. The shelter is transient. It’s not anyone’s permanent home, so you’re not displacing anyone.

  • Correction: The shelter was for up to 180 men (not 80 beds), 80 emergency beds and beds for homeless men who would be sleeping there every night.

  • Seriously?

    So, your argument is now that poor people get to all live together and that’s fine as long as they’re not in the neighborhood where you live, because it might keep it from “progressing.” I’m glad we boiled it down.

    Let’s think about this. 80 beds means 80 maximum extra people in the neighborhood at any given time. So what if they’re down on their luck? I bet we’d never notice much of a difference, except for fewer people freezing their butts off at night outside.

  • It gives them an incentive to not be poor anymore.

  • It couldn’t possibly be 180 men given the proposal up for discussion:

    Mixed use with 100% affordable low to moderate income housing, and 3,576 square feet of office space that will be used by the mission and/or possibly a third party. This housing will consist of 37 units (21 one bedroom, 10 2 bedroom, and 1 3 bedroom).

    You can’t fit 180 men in 37 units. Not humanely.

  • I understand the fears here, that Georgia ave will backslide, but I think it really comes down to this:

    Where are the people being serviced coming from?

    It’s very tempting to turn this into the old-“Do the homeless DESERVE social services?”-debate. But, as is apparent from the years upon years that that argument has been raging, I think if there’s anything we can all agree on, it’s that no one is likely to win that argument any time soon.

    It’s important to recognize that a number of the people who might be helped by this, are ALREADY in your backyard.

    The question is, are the people of Petworth being saddled with a burden, or relieved of one? If the majority of people serviced spend much of their time in the surrounding area already, I would envisage a reduction of crime. Likewise, if the majority come from outside of the area, I suspect crime is likely to increase.

    So perhaps, through negotiation, there is some balance that can be struck by balancing the needs of the city to help the city’s homeless population, with the needs of Petworth’s local indigent population, which will result in a negligible change in the crime rate.

  • Nick. Agreed.

  • I’m not sure where I fall on this issue yet, as I admittedly live along lower Georgia and have been jealous of all the new buildings going up on upper Georgia while we continue to look at boarded up storefronts, a strip club and (too many) takeout joints on this end. I guess we chose the wrong side of the tracks.

    That said, it doesn’t seem that the Mission’s current location stopped development from happening along 14th Street…

  • FYI…The Central Union Mission has publicly stated its desire to relocate to the Gales School, which is located several blocks from Union Station. HOWEVER, the ACLU and Americans United have sued the city counsel over the deal that concluded with the mission obtaining the Gales School (see Wash Post articles and ACLU & AU press releases).

    The mission is the oldest social service provider in the district having provided services the districts most needy for over 120 years. They cared for homeless & abandoned children in the district long before the district implemented foster care services. The mission helped the district’s most vulnerable survive the great depression, including the those newly unemployed and/or homeless as a result of the crash.

    To the best of my knowledge, the mission’s lease on the property on 14th St. has expired.

    All of this is to say that the mission is NOT attempting a bait-and-switch with their property on Georgia Ave.

    The Central Union Mission has earned its reputation as a trustworthy and respectable private charity!

    This debate/public hearing ought to be conducted in such a way that acknowledges the mission’s history of selfless service to the district, regardless of one’s position on the development of the Georgia Ave property.

    Perhaps we, as residents of the district, ought to be a bit more concerned that the ACLU believes it prudent to force the city counsel to spend public funds defending private charity to the homeless!

  • No, the shelter was for 180 beds for men, no women or families, just drunk drug addicted men or otherwise screwed up. The current plan might be different but the original shelter plan was for 180 men… and I am not for it.

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