“We Cannot Delay Closing DC General”

DC General
Photo by Flickr user Street Sense Photo By Sabrina Caserta

From the Mayor’s Office:

“We Cannot Delay Closing DC General

Fixing the District’s broken homelessness system has been a top priority of my Administration.  Our team of nationally recognized homelessness and housing experts developed a plan to end homelessness in the District by 2020.  And we put our money where our mouth is, with historic investments of $145 million in homeless service programs.

At the top of our agenda is to close DC General, the District’s largest family shelter.  If you’ve heard anything about DC General, you know it’s not a place for families.  DC General is located near our jail and other treatment facilities.  It is a bureaucratic, institutional behemoth – with capacity for 268 families.

Our community deserves better.  So we’re going to do something others have failed to do:  we will close DC General once and for all.

Our plan is to replace DC General with small, neighborhood-based, emergency family housing across the city.  This emergency family housing will have private rooms that are safe and clean.  There will be common spaces for children to play and do homework, and services like housing assistance and job placement – the very things that help families exit out of shelter.

We want the new facilities to meet the needs of the people we serve in a dignified and humane way.  So my team put together a work group including advocates, providers of homeless services, experts in child welfare and domestic violence, and people who have experienced homelessness.  That group recommended a number of ways we can make the facilities safe, dignified and effective.  With their recommendations in hand, we came up with a design that balances the interests of key stakeholders.  The new emergency family housing will be superior to DC General in every way, and will help parents and children achieve their number one goal – to transition quickly to a place they can call home.

This week, the Council of the District of Columbia will have an opportunity to vote on legislation that paves the way for this new emergency family housing.  Please call on your councilmember and urge them to pass the “Year Round Access to Shelter Policy Amendment Act.”

If we work together, we can close DC General and end homelessness in the District.


Muriel Bowser


P.S. Have you signed the pledge to end homelessness in the District?  Click here to join the more than 10,000 people who have already signed on.

25 Comment

  • Whack-a-Mole anyone? Why not fix what’s there rather than closing it down and pretend the problem will go away?

    • Not everyone living in Ward 3 was born with a silver spoon in their mouth. I grew up in extreme poverty (often went to bed hungry, wore my coat, boots, hats and glove to bed because we often had no heat), began working when I was in junior high, worked two and sometimes three jobs most of my life, put myself through college and grad school. I spent many years paying off student loans. I lived in some very undesirable apartments/neighborhoods with roommates. I didn’t have a bunch of kids (couldn’t afford). I work in Ward 7. I now I live in a nice place in Ward 3. I like living in Ward 3. I get tired of the assumptions made about those of us who live in Ward 3.

  • justinbc

    Well, Mayor, technically you do have to delay closing it until you get that other housing built. Otherwise you’re just kicking people out into the street.

    • I imagine the city will just put them up in motels as seems to be the case for lots of families every year.

      • The motels are used when the temperature drops below freezing and the government is required to bring individuals on the street indoors.

        • Not anymore. The City is now giving by right, housing to EVERY family regardless of temp. The city already has hudreds of families in hotels, most in MD. This is genius for MD and VA. Just send your homeless famiies into DC where they are garuanteed housing, they are housed back in your state and your state gets the tax revenue but none of the housing burden. Its no secret that other jurisdictions “counsel” some homeless folks to get to the District. We are one of a handful of states with housing as a right.

          • You make it sounds as if this is an easy process. I work with crime victims in the city, many of whom are homeless, and let me tell you, getting homeless folks into housing doesn’t happen quickly, when in the rare case it happens at all.

  • I’m normally not a Bowser supporter, but I 100% agree with her on this. DC General is horrific and needs to close. DC General can’t be rehabilitated. It was designed to be a hospital ages ago people, not a shelter. It resembles the hospital from the opening of the Walking Dead. Besides how much more evidence do you need that concentrating a high volume of at risk population in one place does not work? It’s simply impossible to manage that many people. The staff are overwhelmed and can’t keep order. Smaller facilities across the city in several neighborhoods makes sense.

  • If she wants one in every ward, I hope she builds the one in Ward 3 first so we can actually trust the process. Otherwise, I have a feeling there will be ones in Wards 5,7,8 (maybe 1,4, 6) and nothing west of the park.

  • Linc Park SE

    It has to close because they are building condos there starting in March. They also need to move the jail and the meth clinic.

    • Check those reservation 13 plans again. The first phase doesn’t involved DC General. Furthermore, reservation 13 literally doesn’t include the jail so you can stop with that as well. They’ll both still be there for the foreseeable future. And seeing how we’re on year 13 since the master plan was passed and phase 1 hasn’t even been permitted, I don’t think we need to worry about development past parcels F1 and G1 any time soon.

      Closing DC general has nothing to do with your coded gentrification-angst.

  • goaldigger

    While I don’t dispute that DC General has outlived it’s usefulness and needs to be bull dozed, I am not so convinced that the location is bad for an emergency shelter. If the goal is to help parents get back on their feet, wouldn’t having easy access to bus lines and a metro stop (when it’s working) be a plus for looking for or getting to a job/finding a new place to live? I think I’d rather see a new cheerful residential building (apts) at this location that had one stop shopping for the help these families need (training, job referral, medical, child care, housing leads etc). What we need in the 8 wards is low income housing that these people can transition to (the shelter(s) need to be temporary/emergency).

  • Cool idea, but until DC establishes some sort of cross-jurisdictional accord/agreement with Maryland and Virginia, we’re going to continue to be short on shelters. DC offers a disproportionate amount of services and shelter compared to the surrounding states, and so everyone in need floods in. I’m all for replacing DC General, but the idea of ending homelessness in the District will never work if it’s just the District making the effort.

  • Close it?

    It is a gloriously large government building, close to transit and other mental/physical treatment facilities yet on government property that will never “not” be government property. I will completely agree that the interior conditions are pretty bad, but it is nothing a full renovation couldn’t easily fix. Because of the poor, ex hospital inefficient layout on the inside, the building can only hold 290 families (960 people). A new floor plan and a complete renovation would offer far more personal / private space for the homeless, and increase the overall capacity of the facility by half.

    So you are going to tear it down, then what? Where are those 980 people going to go? The city hasn’t (or isn’t in the process) of building enough capacity to house them all.

    Then again, housing them all in motels would actually be cheaper. It costs DC 13 million a year just to keep the lights on in the place, or $46,000 per family per year, or $3,800 per month. I know housing in DC is expensive but you can rent a heck of a nice place, even for a family for $3,800 a month in all but a couple neighborhoods.

  • Agree DC General is a cesspool, but I’m tired of hearing politicians talk about affordable housing and homelessness when crime is so bad. I want my family to feel safe. We don’t anymore. I also blame my Councilmember, but the mayor needs to show some leadership on crime.

  • Yep let’s keep taking care of the surrounding area’s homeless. I’ve witness police tell homeless people to “go to DC, they’ll take care of you there”. We will NEVER end homelessness unless the neighboring counties also do their part.

    • Seriously?
      “surrounding area’s homeless,” isn’t a thing. They’re homeless.
      I feel pretty safe in guessing that if you were homeless and there was a chance you could go somewhere nearby to rest you would. Also, getting into shelters in DC is next to impossible for the people who “live” here. SO instead of complaining about the problem why not spend your time working on a solution?

      Have you been inside a homeless shelter? They, for the most part, are AWFUL.

      Should everyone do their part? Yes. Is pointing fingers going to solve anything? No.

  • I’m all for building NEW shelters and “emergency family housing” but getting rid of a huge homeless shelter doesn’t seem like the best way to combat homelessness. How about we build some new housing and transition some people away from DC General so as to make it less crowded and more desirable for others. If half of the people get placed somewhere else then half of DC General can be fixed up. Getting rid of homeless shelters won’t help solve the problem.

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