Council Proposes New Sites for Homeless Shelters – Locations by Ward

Photo by PoPville flickr user Lorie Shaull

The Washington Post reports:

“Council Chairman Phil Mendelson released legislation backed by nine of the council’s 13 members that would jettison roughly half of the sites the mayor wants to lease from private landowners.

Instead, the city would build five shelters on public land and empower the mayor to purchase or use eminent domain to take control of two others.”

The reported proposed sites are 2105 10th St, NW in Ward 1; nothing in Ward 2; 3320 Idaho Ave, NW in Ward 3; 5505 5th St, NW in Ward 4; 326 R St, NE or 1700 Rhode Island Ave, NE in Ward 5; 2nd and K St, NW in Ward 6; 5004 D St, SE in Ward 7; 6th and Chesapeake St, SE in Ward 8.

Updates when the mayor responds.

81 Comment

  • Ward 4 location still has the land ownership issues.

    • Accountering

      Not at all… They are going to buy the land, and take it with eminent domain if they cant purchase it. Now that we are down to two land purchases, it is a much simpler transaction, and will be very easy to scrutinize the sale price. I have some confidence that this land will be sold at or near market price now.

      • Who is “they”? Council can’t buy the land or seize it by eminent domain; only the Mayor can (with subsequent Council approval).

    • Prince Of Petworth

      “empower the mayor to purchase or use eminent domain to take control of two others.”

  • Accountering

    This is such excellent news. Bowsers horrible plan got just absolutely crushed, as it should have, and a much better plan gets advanced. We spend about 100,000,000 on the front end, but now we own the buildings/land, we aren’t paying off her donors, and the locations (instead of being ground leases) are on city owned property in better locations in most cases. Well played DC council, and oh so embarrassing for Bowser… She puts forth this horrible corrupt plan, and it just gets destroyed, as it should have. The city is better for this change, and I couldn’t have been more pleased to see it.

    • Thanks for the summary — the leasing scheme of the original plan was pretty disheartening.

      • Accountering

        Totally agree. The first proposal was absolutely horrible, so this seems like a much better iteration, and a vast improvement with lower costs, less corruption (or the appearance of) and better outcomes. Definitely a win, win, win. Only loser is her developer cronies, and that’s another win in my book.
        Here’s hoping they didn’t flush too much cash down the drain on legal fees, termination fees and the like for all the backroom deals she negotiated that the council then had to smack down.

    • +10,000
      The whole scenario by Bowser was so horribly corrupt. Massive waste of taxpayer money.

    • +1!

  • None in Ward 2?

    • This is just speculation, but it may have something to do with high property values in Ward 2 now that the plan is to purchase property rather than lease from cronies.

    • I believe that is because there is already a family shelter operating in Ward 2. The original plan never had a new one being built in the first place.

      • No – there’s a homeless shelter on 6th that’s being converted into a women’s shelter. I guess the thinking is having that and a family shelter is duplicative or something.

        • Yes–thats what I was referring to. A woman’s shelter is essentially a family shelter since many homeless families are single and/or pregnant mothers and women escaping domestic violence.

          • Ah Ok that makes sense. I knew the original plan included the conversion but wasn’t sure if this meant that the conversion wasn’t happening anymore.

          • Not true. Generally speaking women’s shelters and family shelters are different with the latter not permitting children and the both having different funding streams.

          • Former, I mean, in the comment below

    • I don’t understand this either – the family shelter solution won’t work for homeless men, of which there are a lot of along Connecticut Avenue in DuPont. I would like to better understand how this large geographic area is serviced even if the property costs are too high.

  • It’ll be interesting to see how the Penn Center (326 R St NE) suggestion shakes out. Both DDOT and DGS have tapped it recently in recommendations for MBT improvements ( and a soon-to-be-undertaken art installation (, respectively.

    I’d love to see a way to activate Penn Center, like DDOT suggested, AND provide living space and support for homeless families. There’s no need to isolate, and further stigmatize, families with unstable housing — having the shelter share a building with any retail space that comes out of an activated Penn Center could be a great way to reinforce the importance of community integration.

    • Agreed, but 1700 Rhode Island Ave. NE is also a great site proximal to a lot of upcoming development and revitalization of an old commercial strip a few blocks north. The current old MPD building is an eyesore, as are many of the commercial spaces immediately around the building, so in that sense the Rhode Island site needs this public investment more.

      • meant to say development near the metro to the southwest and revitalization to the northeast. No development to the northeast yet that I can tell.

      • I think the Woodridge Public Library is also being modernized and is close to re-opening, so that could be a great resource for families living at 1700 RIA NE. Between that and the proposed (and maybe funded?) G9 bus that would run along RIA, it looks like it would be a good location.

    • I’m curious if residents will fight either of those Ward 5 sites. Ward 5’s public opposition to the mayor’s proposed site was that it was going to be dropped in an industrial wasteland with garbage transit access. Now it’s either in Eckington or on RIA close to the borders of Brookland/Woodridge/Langdon.

      • The previous activist leaders have said “Regardless of which of these two sites is selected, they are much more dignified and healthy than the industrial site the mayor had proposed. Congrats to all of you that spoke out! We’re not done yet, but we are getting there.”
        1700 Rhode Island was actually one of their suggestions for alternate sites. So they are celebrating this as a huge victory. It would have to be other people taking the initiative to protest.

      • As a Ward 5 resident I prefer both these options to the other site. The 1700 Rhode Island Ave is what i prefer due to its proximity to the new library and the redevelopment of the Rhode Island Main Streets grant.

    • Good point. I love the idea of adding some much-needed retail space this part of Ward 5. I hope the two plans aren’t mutually exclusive, as you point out.

      Also, worth noting that there is already a homeless shelter more or less around the corner from the R st location (on S st and Lincoln). Is there a reason to put two next to each other? Would the existing one be rolled into the new place? Just trying to understand the decision-making here.

      • There is also a shelter just up Rhode Island Ave on the 2400 block. It’s one of the nicer buildings around there.

    • There’s also a lot around that area. Langley ES is close by, there’s some affordable retail and a metro line close by. So much better than the food/school/everything-but-school-buses site on NY Ave.

      • It was 700 feet from a bus stop, half a mile from Douglas’s NewCityDC development, which will probably exist for most of the would-have-been lease’s duration. Under a mile from Ivy City’s Hecht Warehouse development. And many (albeit fastfood) establishments along the way. And a couple banks.
        There is no need to keep repeating the old NIMBY tropes. These two sites are objectively less removed, but the old one was not that bad.

        • But given what’s been going in Ivy City in terms of development, there doesn’t seem to be a trend toward the affordable. Nike, MOM… Doug Jemal doesn’t sound like he plans to lease to affordable options when there are big bucks to be made in catering to the young professional crowd in this city.

          • Oof. “No, those establishments aren’t nice enough to be near the homeless families” “No, those establishments are too nice to be near the homeless families”
            Is the Giant in Brentwood close/affordable enough? Is Good Food Market? Are we sure this is the perfect goldilocks scenario we need? I don’t know. I’ve seen some pricy things at GFM. Plus there’s that Vegan Experience place opening; sounds too fancy. Better protest this site too, right?

          • Also note that I’m sure Douglas Dev’s sites will give rise to other, presumably less fancy, businesses nearby. Crappy old fast food drive-thrus and rundown bank/warehouse buildings aren’t going to sit next to these fancy new developments or turn into fancy developments themselves overnight.

          • You’re putting words in my mouth, and casting aspersions on my character. I’m saying Doug Jemal has indicated that he’s taking Ivy City in the direction he wants it to go, and I don’t have the impression that his vision includes a lot of affordable dining or grocery options for low-income residents. I could be wrong.

            I’m not searching for perfect here (and if you are, you won’t find it); I happen to think this proposal is far more beneficial to the families the shelter is going to serve and gives them many more transit, food, and community integration opportunities than the bus depot.

        • Does anyone actually want homeless people in their neighborhood?

          • Nope. That’s why opening this up to democratic debate was probably a recipe for it not getting done.

      • There are currently 3 shelters within 3 blocks of the Penn Center: DASH, Shalom House, and Emery House. The addition of another shelter is too much.

        • Ah, yeah. The famous rule of three shelters within every three-block radius. That’s in the bible I think.

    • Disagree. The R street location would be terrible, NOMA parks are just getting ready to develop a 2 acre green space (NOMA green) adjacent to this lot. I know myself and other residents are excited to see this space be used for kids playing and outdoor venues like they do at the Navy Yard.

      • You’re right! If you’re hoping to have kids play in the park you’re developing, the absolute worst thing to put next to it is a place where lots of little kids will live!

        oh wait….

  • They will still pay almost $8M for the Ward 1 site!

    This seems awfully high for an empty lot and decrepit building. This city should look for DC-owned sites (as in sites the city already owns) before paying these kinds of prices.

    • Accountering

      That is fair value though. Previously they were going to pay 15 million over 20 years as ground lease payments, and then the land/building would revert to the previous owner so he could turn them into condos and sell them.

      • Maybe this was all an elaborate ruse concocted by the Mayor and CC to first give us a terrible, expensive, completely unworkable plan so that when we saw the price tag on the ACTUAL plan, we would embrace it!

        I see you, Mendelsohn.

      • Along with that being fair value, there’s a fair value opportunity cost of dedicating already-owned land. It’s not as if already-owned land is magically free.

        • Accountering

          Noted, but the opportunity cost IMO is them giving it away to a developer for 400k, or 17k. Or some other number that ends in “k”, as opposed to “m”, and seriously undervalues to site. Now same developer will buy a different site for 8 million, and DC will give them a zoning bonus to build some affordable housing. End of the day, we don’t give away our site, the same building gets built (albeit slightly larger because of the zoning bonus) and we get the same amount of affordable housing.

          • My point was more directed at Shaw.
            At the end of the day, nothing is going to be perfect and people who live proximal to sites are going to find complaints. Now that they know hitting on the financing/corruption angle is so effective, they will probably drill down as deep as they can to find things like this to complain about.

      • Fair value of the property is closer to $2M, not 7.5

    • *imperfections

  • Ralphie!

    3320 Idaho NW is the current MPD 2nd District HQ building. Wonder where that’s going to move?

    • the post article indicates that it will be built on the parking lot (presumably with underground parking for the vehicles that currently use the lot).

  • So obviously their is a lot to like in the councils plan. However I am curious about the funding. This plan will require capitol spending, which the city doesn’t have much of right now due to the school modernization plan. The mayors plan had a lot of flaws but it was a way around the capitol spending issue. I’d be interested to hear additional details about the councils plan. These will be hard decisions because we need to fix our crumbing schools and house our homeless families.

    • There were some details about delaying some school modernization that was probably going to be delayed anyway.

      • I don’t buy the “no impact” at all. School modernizations have already been delayed, with significant decreases in the total funding for them over the next 5 years. If anything, we should be modernizing more of these schools sooner. The condition of these schools is a disgrace, and we should be ashamed of delaying those further.

        • Yeah, I’m sure there will be impact. This is the kind of trade off that makes governance hard. Raise taxes? People complain. Lease land? People complain. Buy land? People complain. Delay renovation? People complain.

    • Getting around the capital spending issue was a bad idea. Using operating budget to pay for what should be capital cost is a way to massively overspend in a way that’s long-term damaging and gets your whole fiscal cycle out of whack. It also drives you to make stupid decisions, like leasing space for $125 million more than buying and have nothing for your money at the end of 25 years. What they’re doing here is a more mature approach that establishes city-owned homeless shelters on land the district will own indefinitely, and I’m totally onboard.

      • It should have been done without impacting school modernization budgets. That’s a really crappy thing to take money from. Have you seen the schools that haven’t been modernized yet? We should be spending more on that, not less.

        • the school whose funding would be delayed (Coolidge) does not actually have a design for the renovation yet. It makes more sense to finish the design and then allocate the money needed.

          Also, the school currently has just 395 students. Roosevelt HS, which has 476 students, is currently undergoing a $136.1 million renovation that is due to finish this August. The capacity of Roosevelt is 1105. The two schools could be combined at Roosevelt and offer a much more robust set of courses and extracurriculars. Cooldidge can be renovated starting next year, so it can reopen again as soon as Roosevelt gets full.

  • What’s the ROI to taxpayers of spending money on the homeless? If citizens feel strongly about this, they’re welcome to donate to charities that deal with this.

    • “What’s the ROI to taxpayers of spending money on the homeless?” Seriously? Not having people sleeping on the streets.
      We elect a legislature and a mayor who decide on the city’s spending priorities. This isn’t a pick-and-choose arrangement where everyone who doesn’t agree with a particular line item gets to opt out.

    • Even if you believe a homeless adult is a useless non-person who will never contribute to society, these are homeless families with children. In that sense, the ROI is similar to that of public schools; a well-educated and useful workforce for the future.
      You might believe homeless people should be allowed to have kids. But preventing that would be more costly (to our souls, if not our coffers. But also our coffers) than building and maintaining some apartments.

    • The ROI? Found the consultant!

      Sheltering people who have nowhere to go is broadly accepted as an essential function of government, like education, law enforcement, and the provision of public recreational space. I pay a lot of tax to DC and I also donate to charities that “deal with this,” and have no problem with either. Safe, secure, dignified shelter is the first step toward achieving at least marginal success in an economy that is getting harder and harder for people who weren’t advantaged at birth. And this is a much better plan than the insanely corrupt and expensive one previously mooted.

    • Accountering

      Or you know, elect politicians that do things with our tax dollars that we approve of.

    • For one, there are countless negative extranalities associated with being homeless that strain social services and negatively impact “taxpayers.” For example, crime, unemployment, healthcare needs, etc. Perhaps more importantly, helping the most vulnerable in our city is the right thing to do. Not every government expenditure has to be judged by the ROI to taxpayers. The government has certain duties to its citizens that do not necessarily have an ROI, this is what distinguishes government from private sector.

    • Here is a good overview about how expensive it is to let the homeless be homeless.
      In fact, housing homeless people – literally just paying for homeless individuals to move into housing, is one of the most affordable ways to handle the problem, as you then reduce the costs to public systems (emergency rooms, jails, police, etc) that homeless individuals cause.

      Even paying for permanent supportive housing (housing with medical and support services) for chronically homeless individuals (those with disabilities) is cheaper than leaving them on the streets.

      • Andie302

        +1 – despite being disgusted by the question it feels like this person doesn’t realize that housing homeless people may actually be less costly to the city than having them remain on the streets and relying on emergency services/medical care/etc. There’s been a lot of research on the “housing first” model. Instead of asking questions about ROI, maybe 18th St should look into it.

        • +1. Even if you look at it from a coldly pragmatic point of view, it makes more sense to spend money up front to provide housing (and other programs), rather than having to spend a larger amount of money dealing with the consequences of _not_ having housing and other programs.

    • This person is either a troll or a libertarian extremist–either way, best to ignore.

      • Not a troll. Given this administration’s approach to the problem, I’m wary of believing that the DC government is going to do a better job at tackling the issue than local charities.

  • Anyone know which council members voted against the new proposal?

  • isn’t one of the purposes to be located near the metro? how does the idaho ave/cathedral commons location meet that criterion?

  • So, there is a woman’s shelter on 6th and H and now another shelter on 2nd and K?

  • The 2nd and K homeless shelter is blocks from an elementry school. Does Charles Allen even know which one? Doubtful.

  • Check out how the mayor is trying to spin this story in her newsletter:

    Letter from the Mayor

    Dear Washingtonians,

    Homeless families deserve shelter that is safe and dignified. And this February, I put forward a comprehensive plan to close DC General – by creating short-term family housing across the District. The sites were selected based on size, location, access to transportation, and an ability to relocate homeless families to clean, safe, and dignified facilities by 2018.

    This week, Chairman Mendelson and the DC Council passed a bill that includes alternate sites in several Wards. While I am pleased to see the Council finally take action, I am concerned that their proposal delays the closure of DC General beyond 2018 and may include restrictions that jeopardize the entire program. That means years of families having no choice but to stay in an old, dilapidated place that does not live up to the ethical and moral values of our city.

    To boot, the Council passed the legislation without hearing one word of input from District residents. After all the Chairman’s talk about the need to listen to the community, he came up with this scheme in the dark of night, without allowing for one single day for public debate.

    We will work with the Council to minimize the delay, and give families who experience homelessness the dignity and hope they deserve.


    Muriel Bowser

    • Thanks for this letter. I’m amused at the end of her letter where she states
      ‘…passed the legislation without hearing one word of input from District residents. After all the Chairman’s talk about the need to listen to the community, he came up with this scheme in the dark of night, without allowing for one single day for public debate.’
      —WOW, isn’t that exactly what Ms. Mayor did when she rolled out this initial plan?–she’s writing about herself??? At least in SW/WARD 6 our neighborhood spoke up very loud and clear and suggested alternative sites so we felt our voices were heard.

Comments are closed.