Central Union Mission Requests Delay To Feb. 19 Hearing

by Prince Of Petworth February 13, 2008 at 11:28 pm 20 Comments

The following message was forwarded by Councilman Graham:

Dear Georgia Avenue constituents,


In response to issues raised by the community, Central Union Mission has requested a delay of its special exception hearing with BZA, scheduled for next Tuesday 2/19, in order to consider “significant changes to the scope and use” of the 170-bed men’s homeless shelter it had planned for the 3500 block of Georgia Avenue.  While the community was fully-prepared for the hearing with countless letters, petitions, testimony and research, it agrees that the Mission needs to re-think its plan, which was neither neighborhood-compatible nor effective for transitioning people out of homelessness.  The residents and businesses of Georgia Avenue also extend a special ‘thank you’ to Councilmember Jim Graham for his efforts on this matter.  Residents should not attend the hearing on 2/19 as it will be rescheduled for sometime in the fall of 2008.



Georgia Avenue Redevelopment Defense Squad (GARDS)”

So is this good news or bad news?

  • Anonymous

    On one hand, they obviously see they need to re-evaluate, so they must know their plans aren’t strong enough to be justified at this time. On the other hand, they may come back bigger and better in fall. Yikes…

  • bogfrog

    As I recall, there was a small but vocal backlash against NIMBY on this site. However, I went to a Parkview community meeting and hearing from people in person was more convincing than email exchanges.

  • Flipflopirate

    Ok.. as a relative newb to the block. Whats goin on? Whats the issue? Whats the controversy? I gather that there is a prospective homeless shelter slated to be built in our fair neighborhood. I gather that some people are understandingly reluctant to introduce a safe haven for this particularly downtrodden demographic on our streets. That being said, am I missing any key elements to the story? Whats the dish?

    Having watched South Parks ‘Night of the Living Homeless’ last night I find my otherwise liberal advocation for social programs challenged.

  • Anonymous

    from what i can tell, some of the issues are:
    -the shelter wants to sell it’s current shelter location on 14th & R for big $$$$$$
    -wealthy logan/u streets residents don’t want the shelter to stay in their neighborhood so they are more than happy to see it go
    – the shelter’s proposed new location on georgia is not zoned for such a large shelter, so they would require a variance
    – proposed new location on georgia is sourrounded by liquor stores, and there is a higher number of drug and/or alcohol abusers among the homeless than the general popoulation
    -proposed new location on georgia will be very near a charter school, and there is higher number of people with mental illness among the homeless than the general popoulation

  • lazy cake

    Nope, you’ve rpetty much got the gist of it. I think the main problem is the number of beds that the shelter wants to have available. Many think that 170 is just too many.
    Oh, and its slated to be built basically next door to that new charter school that’s still under construction on GA. I’m assuming folks don’t want to mix the homeless population with the K-8 crowd.

  • Steve

    Plus – from what I understand large shelters are not the state of the art anymore. More focus is on more numerous small shelters to 1) provide services to homless in their neighborhoods and 2) reduce externalities produced by the footprint of the large shelter.

    From what I can tell, Central Union kind of ignored this trend when the made their plan for the new shelter.

    Does anyone know which build or lot they want to build? Is it the church that appears to have been a market on GA Ave?

  • Anonymous

    it the car wash on the west side of GA

  • For me, there are 2 main issues:

    1. The size: at 170 beds, it will be one of the larger homeless shelters in the city. I can understand the need for scale to decrease service costs per person, but every detailed study shows that the best social service programs are low-number, high-impact. CUM has not shown its scaling its efforts in proportion to its increase in beds.

    2. The overflow: at 170 beds, CUM will be a magnet for more than 170 people per day. What happens to the overflow? Those that either are excluded when CUM reaches capacity, or worse, excluded for violating their rules, will not just jump on the Green Line for another shelter, they will seek shelter nearby, wherever they can find it.

    For me its the second issue that I worry about most and see no effort from CUM to address. And yet its the overflow people that caused the most trouble in Logan Circle when I lived there (back when it was “East Dupont”).

  • Flipflopirate

    …as long as we’re lending community space to a Ragamuffin Super-center may I suggest that our new neighbors contribute back in the form of shelter sponsored programs? I hate to draw parallels but correctional facilities across the country have systematically trained ‘inhabitants’ to make furniture, direct 411 calls, and countless other tasks… perhaps this shelter could institute tasks and trades that would lend work experience and money earned to its residents, fund the shelter from any profits, and give back skills and trade to the hood. If not I would also encourage these (although not limited to) activities:

    1) Community Homeless Dinner Theater – “Dinner and a show for those who need it most”
    2)Hobo Rodeo – “Bustin’ Broncs and Kickin’ Habits”
    3)Shelter Community Garden – “Go Green, Buy Panhandler Produce”

  • “-wealthy logan/u streets residents don’t want the shelter to stay in their neighborhood so they are more than happy to see it go”

    Sorry, but I can’t let this one slip through. I’ll hold off on my thoughts about the Union for now, but I don’t know of any factual basis for that above statement. We live on the same block as the Mission–just a few houses down–and walk by it multiple times every single day. We also talk to a lot of people in our immediate area and neighborhood–both individuals and businesses. I’ve yet to encounter a single resident/business who is looking to pawn the shelter off on Petworth.

    I don’t see what being “wealthy” has to do with it, either.

  • I’m with 14th and U. I live just a few doors down from the Mission, and while I understand the obvious “stigma” that a homeless shelter carries for real estate and neighborhood reputation, this particular shelter is an excellent neighbor. In fact, I feel safer on that corner than many others. Why? Because there are cameras all around the building and a staff of (often very large) men regularly working around the door or chatting outside. It’s a great constant presence to have the staff around. Their alley is spic and span. I can also assure you that the people I have witnessed breaking into my neighbors’ houses and committing various crimes are not the same people waiting in line for a bed.

  • Otis

    I think Central Union Mission is the one that wants to cash out and leave their “rich neighbors” to the tune of SEVERAL MILLION DOLLARS.

  • Steve

    I just wish they would focus on multiple smaller shelters where individualized treatment and assistance could be provided. GA Ave is not 14th and R. That area is largely gentrified in comarison to the area they are contemplating. I would think that the outcomes could be very different. Do open air drug markets still exist around 14th and R? What is the density of liquor stores? The GA Ave location just does not seem to be a good fit for either the shelter or the neighborhood.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Steve. I think the individuals who state the shelter is a good neighbor are forgetting about the drastically different environment in the area. And, also are ignoring the increase in size. Just because it now operates “ideally” on 14th street does not ensure the same situation on Georgia Avenue.

    And nobody has mentioned the “revitalization” of Georgia avenue. How will it impact that aspect of things? It may seem selfish to those outside of the neighborhood, but Georgia avenue has waited literally four decades for change and upliftment. Is a MEGAshelter the way to achieve that so early in the process?

  • bogfrog

    There are some reasons against moving the shelter in this website: http://www.missiondcfacts.com/

  • Nathan

    If the owner of the building is on record saying that he wouldn’t want it in his neighborhood, why shouldn’t we his words against him as it relates to our neighborhood?

  • Anonymous

    attacks on homeless on the rise: in an ideal world/neighborhood we would treat homeless men and women as human beings and not ostracize/dehumanize them. I believe these kind of protests against missions etc. send the message to children that they are less than human and can be targeted in senseless ways. this mission has a good track record, why can’t we give them the benefit of the doubt that they will run this mission in the same responsible way as the one in Logan? i hate the yellow signs.


  • bogfrog

    The NY Times report is sickening, so very sad. A group of fellow volunteers recently met with Gunther Stern, of Georgetown Ministries, who has worked on behalf of the homeless in DC for more than 20 years. He stated that the closing of St Elizabeth’s was responsible for much of the increase in numbers of people without homes and drifting through parks.

    The NY Times writer states, “Advocates for the homeless blame a society that they say shuns the homeless through laws that criminalize sleeping in parks, camping and begging [for crimes against the homeless].” However, there is more to the story than this statement indicates. Certainly, I agree that humans deserve a place to be sheltered and to call home. Erving Goffman has described the “community” of the hospital or psychiatric ward. Somewhere to leave one’s stuff and sleep should be offered to every human, in my opinion. But it’s hard to know how to make this happen. Is it better to advocate through policies, private voluntary initiatives, or broad public mandates? As Stern indicated, there is a heavy burden of mental illness in the homeless population. A warehouse or boot camp style barracks may not turn our homeless back into contributing members of society. This is a very important ethical and practical question for our communities. However, I disagree with Anonymous 2:02 and the NY Times columnist that laws banning loitering and protests against missions are hateful acts.

  • 14thandYou

    “I think the individuals who state the shelter is a good neighbor are forgetting about the drastically different environment in the area.”

    No, we’re not. At all.

    To begin with, what does being a good neighbor have to do with the neighborhood you’re in? Either you’re a good neighbor or you’re not. When we say they’re a “good neighbor”, there are no asterisks or footnotes applied to that statement. They’re clean, security vigilant, and responsible, and they provide much-needed shelter to people in distress. In short, they’re a good neighbor–they would be in Georgetown, they would be in Anacostia, and they are in Logan.

    Secondly, our family has lived on the 1300 block of R St. since the late 80s. As anyone who’s been in the Logan area for longer than 10 years will tell you, the neighborhood was nowhere near gentrified back then. Not even close. And yet, the Mission’s presence has done nothing to stifle development along the corridor. (Although constantly putting forth the misguided notion that Logan residents are eager to dispense with the Mission sure plays well.)

    There are always excuses as to why an establishment such as the Mission would be a “bad deal” for the neighborhood. But enough with putting words into the mouths of residents who know better than anyone the operational methods of the entity in question. Hard as it may be to believe, but some of us don’t object to the fact that there’s a shelter only a few feet from our front doors.

  • Anonymous

    Can anyone tell me how many men the shelter currently takes in?


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