Dear PoP – La Casa Shelter Closing, Zoning Hearing Thursday

“Dear PoP,

Folks may or may not know that the La Casa Shelter on Irving between 14th and 16th is slated to close October 15th pending a zoning hearing. The Highland Park Apartment owners own the property (I believe) and want to build 69 more Luxury (unaffordable) units there.

The zoning hearing is Thursday, September 30th at One Judiciary Square 441 4th suite 220-S at 630pm

While the shelter is not the greatest, during the winter, they double the number of people they take in and it is one of the only shelters left in NW.

I wanted to ask if folk would come to the hearing and request that the shelter remain open at least through the winter so that people have a warm place to go and that the city can plan better for where they will go after the closing.

In addition, DC has an inclusionary zoning law which is supposed to require any new development to setaside a certain number of units as affordable. We should make sure that this law is enforced for these new units.”

We recently spoke about this building in the beginning of Sept. but The 42 blog posted a big update on this yesterday. He writes:

“The developers have a zoning hearing on September 30 in order to propose several changes. They want to increase the number of apartment units from 69 to 143. They want to increase the roof line from 86 to 90 feet (plus 9 foot penthouse level above). And finally, they want to eliminate the parking garage and alter the façade from what you see in the rendering to an aesthetic that more closely matches the existing Highland Park.”

Lots more info and an original rendering here.

Ed. Note: Highland Park is a PoP advertiser.

59 Comment

  • It’s about time they close the bum warehouse.

  • I’m sympathetic, but actually I’ll be happy to go to support its closing. I don’t think this is a good location for this type of activity. Where is? I don’t pretend to know. But this is a retail artery, and I am sure the folks that live around it would be happy to see it go somewhere else.

    • All well and good, but I believe the shelter was there long before the area became a “retail artery.” “Somewhere else” is always a great location for a homeless shelter, unless you happen to live in “somewhere else.”

      • really? the shelter was there back in the 1800s before 14th street was a retail artery? fascinating piece of history – would love to see your sources on that little factoid.

        • I think a common sense interpretation of the original post would lead one (with common sense) to conclude that the original poster was not invoking the glory days of the 1800’s, but rather talking about the very recent conversion (or perhaps “restoration” is a better word) of that particular part of 14th street into a “retail artery.” When I moved to DC in 2000, there was nothing at the corner of 14th and Irving but a huge, empty lot with some building facade propped up around it – perhaps this facade was the remnant of the great retail shops from the 1800s.
          Interestingly enough, I don’t hear alot of pining for the days before DCUSA opened, but maybe you are one of the few who preferred the empty lot to what is there now.

          • The facade was the remnant of the vibrant neighborhood that the riots destroyed. Pre-60s riots, there was no shelter there.

          • So we should be working to preserve the post-riot composition of 14th street instead of rebuilding it into a vibrant retail corridor? why exactly?

    • Of course. Let’s push those homeless people to another place where we don’t have to be confronted by them. Better to keep them out of sight, so that they can be more easily forgotten.

      I would suggest that next-door to a luxury condo unit, and across the street from big-box retailers, is exactly where a homeless shelter should be. If the folks around it would like the shelter gone, perhaps that will spur them to do more work towards a city and a country where such shelters aren’t necessary.

      • maybe you should just take them in then.

      • MD or VA. Your choice. DC already does far, far and away more than its fair share of addressing regional poverty and homelessness. When there’s even something approaching similar numbers in the surrounding burbs, then we can talk about doing more–and listening to folks like yourself wagging your finger.

        • Why would the surrounding ‘burbs do more or an equal share to address poverty? The problem is in DC. Why would limited-income folks move to the suburbs if they could help it? So they can have less access to resources, jobs, and services? Makes sense.

        • There actually IS a homeless shelter in Old Town Alexandria.

      • what kind of work will it take to make shelters unnecessary? how about tax funded public schools and GED programs? how about tax funded military that will pretty much take anyone? how about free libraries with internet access for people to take advantage of

        how about free classified sections to the homeless? i would kick in to a donation drive to subscribe each shelter with the washington post.

        how about nationalized medicine? i’m in though i’m afraid it won’t happen.

        how about seeing if the federal government would hire people in the dc area?

        is that what you were thinking i’d bet nearly everyone who reads this is on board.

        • “what kind of work will it take to make shelters unnecessary?”

          At a minimum, serious programs to address the mental health and addiction issues with the population. I echo comments made here already that just warehousing people isn’t a soultion. People with serious illnesses like bipolar disorder and schizophenia have to be managed beyond providing a blanket and a cot.

      • Most of the homeless adults need to be confronted by the fact that their depravity, degeneracy, dependency, and drug addiction has caused them to be in their circumstances.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    “In accordance with section 10-801(a)(4) of the DC Official Code, this letter serves as notice that the District of Columbia Department of Real Estate Services is negotiating a lease with the Central Union Mission for the Gales School located at 65 Massachusetts Avenue, NW.

    The intent of this transaction is to allow the Central Union Mission to lease the property on a long term basis, perform a complete renovation of the building, and use it as a homeless shelter and services center serving the local community.”

    • PoP, I really think this post should be amended to reflect that this project has the CBRF component. Right now it is misleading and reads as if the shelter is being destroyed and nothing like it will be rebuilt.

  • “They have a deal with Donatelli to allow an extension of Highland Park, but also to build an 82 bed community based residential facility (CBRF) on that land. What is a CBRF? From the proposal: “Community Based Residential Facilities (CBRFs) are single room occupancy facilities for homeless residents in the District. These facilities combine living quarters with job training, housing placement, case management, and other needed services that promote self-sufficiency.””

    Did you skip over this part of the 42’s post?

    • Thanks, AM. I was going to point this out, too. While I’m all for keeping la Casa open through the winter (the city needs all the beds we can get for the colder months), I think this project could be a net gain for everybody, especially since the shelter is currently well under capacity, so the 8 bed loss in capacity will be more than offset by the potentially better-quality services.

      (I used to live in Highland Park, and left after a single year’s lease. That said, la Casa was not one of my reasons for leaving.)

  • Hahahahaha. I feel so sorry for the person who asked POP to post this. Prepare to get slammed. I’m pretty centrist on these issues myself but this crowd ain’t.

    I feel bad for you and the shelter but you should have known better.

    One thing I will say is that I lived at Park and Hyatt and never got any shit from anyone around/related to this building. Not that it matter to anyone. Just something to add.

    Another thing – I was kinda scared when I heard how the Heights on Georgia avenue project would be 50% affordable housing (recently moved very close by). But now that I looked at the guidelines I realize it is totally unaffordable for the kind of people that I was (I’m very embarrassed to admit this) afraid of. Now I’m worried about all the non-profit Yupsters that will move in. Affordable housing is a joke in DC. It’s just a transfer of wealth from people with a decent income to the recent college grads (children of people with a decent income).

    My advice to you, Dear POP letter-asker, is to stop giving a damn. It is really frustrating when you do.

  • ” and it is one of the only shelters left in NW.”

    Exactly what does this mean? How many shelters are there in NW? Or is this one the only one left in NW?

    • Well I can name a few shelters in NW: Central Union Mission at 14th and R NW, Gospel Rescue Ministies at 510 5th St NW, House of Ruth at 5th and Mass NW, CCNV at 3rd and D St NW, Samaratin Inn, 2523 14th St NW, N Street Village 1333 N Street NW, and Christ House 1717 Columbia Rd NW.

      So to say it is one of the only shelters left in NW is incorrect.

      • Sorry for the late post, but you totally just looked up a list of homeless shelters in NW DC in order to prove your point that there are plenty of places for the homeless in NW. But you apparently have no idea of what you’re talking about.

        There’s a huuuuge difference between shelters that provide overnight lodging for homeless people who need it that night (which is what La Casa did), and specialized places that provide a place to stay usually in conjunction with some sort of recovery program. Gospel Rescue Missions, House of Ruth, Samaratin Inn, N Street Village, and Christ House, as far as I’m aware, do NOT provide ad hoc overnight shelter. So, closing La Casa (where people would arrive HOURS EARLY in order to secure a bed) really does leave two real shelters, and only one in upper NW.

  • I’m actually kind of confused about what’s happening (or proposed to happen) – the email and The 42 post are badly written. Is it just that the La Casa shelter on Irving will have to shut down while construction of the new CBRF and the new Highland Park buildings is ongoing? And then it’ll open back up? But people are concerned about the lack of shelter space during the winter and want to postpone the start of construction until the spring? That sounds reasonable to me.

    I have to admit, I was not thrilled when La Casa’s residential drug treatment program moved from this Irivng Site to 1131 Spring. But I’ve hardly noticed it, aside from seeing people outside smoking cigarettes (in their fenced-in yard). They have not been bad neighbors at all, though it does operate a little differently than a temporary shelter. My only issue with the Irving St site is the youngish guy always wearing too-small clothes and often with his pants around his thighs. I do not need to see your ass (or anyone’s) while I’m shopping at Target, dude. But that’s certainly not unique to La Casa.

    • The Zoning Commission is holding a hearing to decide whether to approve a request to modify an already approved PUD for the site. The approved PUD requires construction of a new shelter on the site.

      I agree the original post is very confusing because it implies that the subject of the hearing is whether the shelter should stay open for the winter, which is not the case. The hearing is only about what’s eventually constructed on the site once the new construction is completed.

      People who are interested in keeping the shelter open for the winter would probably be better served by bringing those concerns to those parties who actually do have some control over when the shelter closes, namely the operator of the shelter, the government agencies that have some authority over management of the site, and the developer.

  • Awesome. Gentrification FTW!!!!!

    Hope the shelter can find a new spot somewhere else in the city.

  • Shelter is closing permanently. The ask is to delay closing until spring. Was unaware of CBRF which is actually a positive replacement.

  • A new shelter is being built on that property. Wonder why the OP did not know that or did not mention that.

    The changes the developer is asking for – extra units, eliminating parking, etc. – sound like smart growth to me adjacent to a metro station.

    • Didn’t know until I saw the 42 blog post. It doesn’t explain the additional units in the hearing description. I am trying to find out more. It is a good thing as it won’t be a shelter but actual housing for the population who frequent the shelter. But, the current issue is what happens to folks in the meantime, especially come the colder weather.

    • There are currently 3 levels of parking in the main Highland Park building. All of one, and maybe 25% of another, are all that gets used. I don’t see why there should be any problem with the parking request.

  • Seriously, this place needs to go. My wife doesn’t deserve the harassment and catcalls she gets when she has to walk home from the Metro. As for Highland building more “unaffordable” condos? They’re definitely affordable: for responsible professionals who actually add value to this city and contribute to the tax base.

    A new, better, more convenient, and more secure shelter is being built to support the disenfranchised folks who need to use La Casa.


    • You’re right, because only responsible professionals add value to the city and contribute to the tax base. All the rest of us slackers have nothing of value to contribute whatsoever.

    • I’m a responsible professional who earns more than many families of four in this country and pays taxes on every penny of it. It would very much be a stretch for me to purchase a “luxury” condos – I probably could not afford it. But I grew up here, I work plenty hard, and I do just fine… so ultimately, I think you’re a sanctamonious ass.

  • Everybody has a big heart unless they’re the ones that have intoxicated homeless men taking a dump in the alley behind their apartment. I’m sympathetic to homeless men, particularly the high percentage of them that are batshit insane, but providing a cot for eight hours and then booting them out into the alley to become everyone else’s problem is not any kind of a solution. It sounds like the new CBRF project will accommodate a reasonable number of men and offer a long-term solution (i.e. treatment). The current shelter can’t go soon enough.

  • Good Bye Shitbox! If you cannot afford to live in this city, Get Out. Esp. if you catcall and act like a creep to hardworking folks who support your ass. Adios Muchcachos!

  • Dear Bums, I will be happy when you move, but in the mean time, please stop drinking, take a bath, and get a job.

  • Yeah, from what I understand, replacing this shelter with something better / more permanent was ALWAYS part of the Highland Development plan, and was actually a concession to the city from the developer of sorts, or at least part of the deal they had to agree to for the land. This is certainly not a surprise or anything like that, and the homeless (who aren’t really being served, in the long run, by the current situation, and as others have noted at times create problems for people, women in particular, walking in the area) will benefit from a new and improved facility with a longer-term approach. Meanwhile, there are more desirable higher end units adjacent to the metro, which of course makes sense from a smart growth perspective. So I echo those who say this is a win-win. Hey Ellwood Thompson’s, are you seeing this, that many more potential customers directly adjacent to where your store SHOULD be going in!

    I understand the concerns about winter housing and making sure that folks have some place to go; hopefully someone in the city is on top of that issue. But on the other hand, if this project is delayed, there might be another winter down the line when homeless folks won’t have access to the new and improved facility.

  • Two other points, after reading the 42 post. I don’t like the idea of changing the facade. I think the current planned version is really very attractive, and it’s nice to have some variety on the street (sort of the way Kenyon Square is designed, with different themes in one building) rather than just a continuation of the same monotonous yellow brick. I also worry about NO additional parking, even if there is plenty to spare in Highland right now. 169 is a LOT of units, and there could come a time when demand for parking in the building rises. Maybe they can lower the amount of new underground parking, one less level or something, but none at all seems a bit extreme.

  • Why are they removing the parking garage from the plans? Am I missing something or does that not make any sense.

  • the city should redesign those stupid underutilized garages below Target and Highland Park into Homeless shelters. That way at least they can be used for something.

  • To B:

    You’re nuts. We want the homeless out, not under.

  • Hopefully, by closing the crappy shelter now, there will be some men and women who won’t have to spend next winter in a crappy shelter. The new building promises a great upgrade both for the residents, and the neighbors.

  • Sorry for the duplicate post from ‘The 42’ blog … Why can’t we please both parties. Build the nice new building (which I am sure everyone living in the area would be happy about) and have Donatelli front the cash to renovate or build a new CRFT facility in another location. DC donate the land, Donatelli builds. Done. Obviously more difficult/red-tape/economics etc – but we need community leaders that are looking for unique and innovative solutions and we can certainly find a win-win for all. However this prime real estate would certainly better serve a high tax payer base (that can afford the metro and shop at the Target, etc) which in-turn will provide funds for more city services (including homeless shelters). Big supporter and I can’t wait until they break ground.

  • Oh – also, if you support this development – make sure to show up at the meeting. These meetings always get an overwhelming naysayer contingent that, in my opinion, is the loudest but doesn’t necessarily represent the majority opinion of the neighberhood. Get involved!

  • I understand the writer of the blog has real concerns about the closing of La Casa, however, I would like to say after living next to La Casa for 3 years (not in Highland Park but on the other side) I am very hopeful that it closes. You may ask why and if I am cruel hearted, but for those who don’t live near it, I believe their say should be limited. I have been verbally assaulted by the temporary residents at La Casa at least 5 times a week (even by the building supervisors). They get in drunkeon fights and screaming fights approximately at 12am and 6:00am. The cops and firefighters are there at least twice a week. They have continually try grabbing the high school students walking by after school. There is trash everywhere. Once I even saw a drug deal occur within the facility! Hmm this is only a little of what has occured. I believe that yes we do need homeless shelters to help the needy, but why do people around paying big bucks to live in the area have to suffer from it? And why cant the temporary residents of La Casa respect their neighbors and the neighborhood?

  • i hope that this is a win-win situation where a better facility is built for those who need it and an expansion for the existing apartment building can move forward. upgrading from a facility that gives shelter to those who would otherwise be on the street at night to a facility that can help address the underlying issues causing these folks to be homeless would be fantastic. if something can be worked out where a gap in care could be avoided (especially over the winter), that seems like a reasonable request. i doubt the op would have written if there were a strong chance that a superior facility would be ready to receive the la casa population by the winter. a delay of a few months seems warranted in that case, as the population at la casa would simply be put out in the cold. if you’re saying “throw them out in the cold so i don’t have to see these people for six more months,” i don’t know what i can say.

    i can accept that folks don’t have a lot of sympathy for the guys at la casa and just want the whole thing to go away. none of us should be proud of feeling that way, but i get it. you are right that your wife doesn’t deserve to be catcalled at, that people staying in the shelter shouldn’t do drugs or shit in alley, and that those who are able to work should seek employment. someone with their act together worked so that these guys can go to a better place and you don’t have to see them anymore. someone was an adult–not just a “responsible professional” –and realized that proactive compassion beats the shit out of sit-on-your-ass disdain for folks in a worse lot.

  • This winter, next winter, what difference does it make? It is still cold as anything during the daytime if you are sitting in a snowbank. You are just postponing the inevitable.
    If I were homeless I’d spend the winter in Miami or better yet Naples, you have to be crazy to want to winter in DC if you’re an unemployed alcoholic.

  • It smells like pee there and there are men passed out on teh sidewalk there at least 3 days a week… who basically look dead. The people it houses harrass women and children when they walk by. I’ll be glad to see it closed.

  • To all the naysayers on here, please explain to me again why this is not a complete win-win for everyone: the homeless, the neighbors, the city, and working people who need affordable housing. This proposal:
    1) will still provide housing AND services for homeless folks trying to transition out of homelessness;
    2) will provide some percentage of ADUs for working folks who need decent affordable rental housing; and
    3) removes an eyesore in a revitalizing area and increases the city’s tax base.
    I wish all proposed development projects had the positive outcomes that this proposal provides. What possible positive social or economic purpose is served by maintaning the status quo?

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