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Neighbors Concerned About Proposed Homeless Shelter on Idaho Ave

by Prince Of Petworth May 31, 2016 at 12:55 pm 68 Comments

3320 Idaho Avenue, NW

Ed. Note: A change.org petition has also been launched.

Previously Ward 3 Council Member Mary Cheh wrote the community:

“Through the Council’s process, the location of the temporary family shelter in Ward 3 has been changed from 2619-2623 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, a privately-owned site, to a new location at 3320 Idaho Avenue, NW, a District-owned site. The Second District (2D) Police Station is also located at this site. The new location was primarily selected by the Council because it is both located on District-owned land and otherwise satisfies the criteria for the shelters originally put forth by the Mayor. Frequently suggested by residents at community meetings, this site is also close to transportation, a grocery store and a park, and has sufficient space available for the structure. This also happens to be one of the locations that I included in an earlier, publicly disclosed letter to the Executive requesting further analysis and evaluation for the suitability of a shelter. To clarify, building the temporary family homeless shelter on the Idaho Avenue lot will not intrude on the community garden located next to the property and, with the exception of re-configuring the parking lot with stacked parking, is expected to cause little disruption to the operation of the 2D Police Station.”

From the Mayor’s Office this morning:

“In response to the Council’s second vote on a plan to close the DC General Family homeless shelter, Mayor Muriel Bowser issued the following statement:

“Today marks a milestone in our shared commitment to provide homeless families clean, safe, and dignified housing—and a fair shot at a pathway to the middle class. I thank Chairman Phil Mendelson and the Council for approving a plan that will close DC General and further reform how we serve homeless families. I am also grateful to the residents and organizations that advocated tirelessly for the closure of DC General. With the debate now behind us, I look forward to working with neighbors across the District to build replacement facilities that we can all be proud of, and that reflect the best of who we are as a society.”

One resident shares his concerns:

“Friends & Neighbors:

I attended the meeting on the proposed homeless shelter at the police station. While I’ve previously expressed concerns regarding the site selection process, I went into the meeting with a generally open mind regarding the project as a whole. I left with one major conclusion that I will share with this group – they have not thought this thing through. I would describe Laura Zeilinger as someone who appeared to be a competent and well intenioned public servant, but it is clear that the process being managed by our DC government is completely off the rails. They are probably not going to do the necessary planning unless citizens of this community demand it. I think it is incumbent on the people most directly impacted by these plans to provide guidance and insight to achieve the best possible solution for this community and for the homeless people that have been so badly treated for years by our DC government.

Cheh and Mendelson spent more time planning their message – guilt the public into accepting their half baked plan – than actually planning to getting the process right. Don’t fall for it. We all care deeply about the homeless and mourn the tragedy that is DC General. As DC and Federal taxpayers, we already do our fair share to help address homelessness. If DC government want us to do more than our fair share – to accept costs and risks including the risk of the safety of our children – then they need to provide us with both the planning and the resources that are needed to get it right.

A few specific items that I believe need to be further considered are listed below:

• Site Selection: Mendelson freely admitted that there was no “rigor” in their site selection process. He said that “rigor” was needed when determining where to put, say, a fire station but not to determine where to locate a homeless shelter. I fundamentally disagree. I think citizens of DC should demand a study that looks at potential sites and scores each piece of property on criteria including cost, access to transportation and services for the homeless as well as impacts on the local community. It is unfathomable to me that an investment decision of this magnitude could be made without such a study guiding outcomes. Both Cheh and Mendelson said the primary selection criteria was that it is on city owned land because it was cheaper. Without any detail, it is hard to accept that building a new building is necessarily the cheapest outcome for the tax payers. Cheh suggested there was an existing building on Albemarle that could be repurposed. How is that more expensive?

• Safety: Both Cheh and Mendelson laughed off safety concerns last night – indicating either naivety or willful negligence, in my opinion. They are going to put 20% of DC General in McLean Gardens and expect all of the problems there to stay behind. That’s magical thinking. Citizens should demand a full study on impacts to the safety of the neighborhood and a safety plan that includes increased police officers in District 2, additional street view cameras, private security and increased resources for the District 2 police station. We can’t wish this problem away with good intentions. If we are going to do this, let’s do this right and protect our neighborhood as well as the homeless children that we are welcoming in. I reject those who claim that there will be no safety implications without providing the detailed and localized plan to back it up.

• Management: Mendelson repeatedly said that he was going to replace DC General with a number of “small and well managed” sites. Really? What assurance does anyone have that this will be any better managed than DC General? It is the same people managing it. The problems that occur at DC General have nothing to do with real estate. They have to do with bad management of real challenges. Citizens should demand a nationwide search for a competent independent manager of homeless shelter with a proven track record of managing shelters effectively.

• Size: A week ago, the plan was for 38 units. Now the plan is for 50, according to Mendelson. Apparently, they are already learning that other sites are inadequate and they are increasing the size of the proposed shelter on Idaho Avenue. If neighborhood residents don’t get involved, it very well could be another DC General by the time these guys are done. The property was not zoned for even 38 units. A full study on impacts to the neighborhood including traffic, parking, infrastructure and government services needs to be done before we can conclude that 50 units can be built on that lot.

• Services: A private citizen made an excellent point last night that I will repeat here. What is their plan to provide services to the homeless people that will be moved here? Zeilinger acknowledged that many will need drug and alcohol counseling services. They also need onsite day care services if they are effectively going to transfer from unemployment to full time jobs. Citizens should demand adequate resources for drug and alcohol counseling as well as full time daycare at the proposed site.

• Background Checks: The same people that hired a janitor that allegedly murdered a little girl want to hire more people and put them to work in our neighborhood. Citizens should demand full transparency on their hiring process with better background checks and continuous monitoring of employees. Unfortunately, the past experience of the DC Department of Human Services indicates complete failure in this regard. Citizens should demand improvement.

• Funding for Children: Mendelson and Zeilinger last night suggest that there are likely to be more than 80 children moved to the proposed site. Those students will have access to local schools including Eaton and local parks including the Newark Street Park which has been a selling point of the site location. Citizens should demand additional resources put into the schools that will be accommodating these students and the Newark Street Park. The brand new park is already starting to fall apart. We should consider rehabbing it and expanding it to welcome our new neighbors and their children.

• Commitment: I’m not originally from DC. I’m from Chicago. In Chicago, we had (and still have) some of the most notorious housing projects in the world. It’s a human tragedy on every level. But it didn’t start out that way – it started off with well-meaning city officials like Mrs. Zeilinger proposing to help people by building new buildings. Local governments like construction projects. It adds patronage jobs and enriches their coffers with campaign contributions from eager construction companies. Local governments are bad at providing funding and oversight of long term operations. That’s what happened in Chicago. Funding declined. The communities that welcomed the housing projects declined. The people that were supposed to be helped suffered. We can’t let that happen to our community. Citizens should demand a funding commitment for services, security and operations of at least ten years so that we know we will not end up with a declining, overcrowded, underfunded mini-DC General in our neighborhood a few years from now.

Over the coming months, I would like to work directly with like-minded individuals to implement the positive solutions I have set forth above. Please do not let yourself be shamed or bullied into not getting involved. I know most – if not all – of you have the best intentions in mind. I have never been active in local government or development before so I welcome the input of folks with a detailed knowledge of the zoning and improvement process as well as local political dynamics. I’m confident we can work together to achieve a better outcome – not just for our community, but for the homeless people that need our help the most. Please reach out to me and I am happy to be of as much assistance to you as I can be. Sincerely,
Chris Tynan


  • ParkViewneighbor

    Damn man, i feel you. It’s hard to balance the need to help others with the dismal planning and outreach DC government is showing here.
    I understand the safety issue more than anything else. If DC General is a disaster, why would this Idaho shelter be different ? same peeps right ? There might be a drop in issues if some of the new residents are removed from the DC Gen. toxic environment but there could also be an uptick due to a new environment where people may not be used to transitioning homeless people and be easy targets.
    As for the police, well, see article called Thinned Blue line. You can hope for more MPD but probably wont get you far

    • Thunder

      There is a huge difference in 50 families or less, and the hundreds that live at DC General. That said, I agree that DC doesn’t take care of their property. So it is up to DC citizens to demand the services that the homeless need. If they are in your neighborhood, you will see to it. Right?

  • Sigh

    Racism comes in many forms, often not overtly aimed at people, but expressed in facially innocent manner such as protection of property values, the neighborhood, and children. While some of the concerns raised in this response to the new shelter might be made with intentions that the author feels are fair and neutral, the effect is to reinforce the same racial and income divisions that have existed in this city for generations.

    The argument that “we pay taxes so we do our share” equates wealth with the ability to declare part of the city off limits to others. The Mayor and City Council have made clear that they are trying to distribute the homeless citizens of our city throughout our city. Paying more taxes does not grant one a greater ownership of a public good, or a right to exclude others that one fears. And excluding a lower class or unliked race from a richer, whiter neighborhood can actually make the rich even richer, by further inflating their property values. Share your city with others. It’s not yours any more because you bought a house in a rich neighborhood.

    The plan should move forward.

    • shmoo

      so, lets say this guy is in fact a horrible racist (which, I dont think the letter makes him out to be, btw)… Are his concerns less valid? Even if this was east of the river, i think the concerns he brings up should still be responded to. Regardless of the skin color of the nbeighborhood, these are issues with the city that the city should respond to. Just cus the neighborhood he lives in is “white” as you put it, dosent mean the city should be allowed to do whatever they want, just like if this was in a “black” neighborhood, the city should still be responsive to the citizens.

      • FridayGirl


      • textdoc

        Agreed. I was expecting this to be straight-out NIMBY whining, but he makes some good points — especially as to who will be running these shelters and whether they’ll end up like D.C. General but on a smaller scale.

      • Sigh

        I think Lizcollena made the argument below better than I can, but I wanted to point out two things:
        1. I’m not calling him a “horrible” racist. I don’t mean to turn this conversation into namecalling, and I tried to make my point without doing it. I think the arguments that he raises have racist effects, even if that is not his honest intention.
        2. I am fine with the city providing more services to people and finding better ways to deliver those services. He seems to be calling for it only because of the neighborhood where he is located. The burden and benefits of caring for those who are struggling should be shared equally in the city. And calling for more studies can seriously delay the help that these families and others need. The city has had plenty of time to study things. The problem was not unforeseen. Unfortunately the nature of the problem encourages the comfortable to press for delays without any consequence for themselves. The city needs to do something.

        • shmoo

          “the problem was not unforeseen”

          this is the entire issue. these problems were not unforeseen yet nothing was done to remediate them in the planning stage.

          So in your mind, you would prefer a half-baked plan to one that has been WELL thought out. Not just thought out, but WELL thought out, simply because “the city needs to do something”

          • Sigh

            I mean that people have been sounding the alarm about the homeless crisis for more than the last decade. The city has postponed making decisions over and over, kicking the can down the road. At some point taking action forces the hard decisions to be made. It’s almost always studies and worries and planning that is done, but nothing happens. When we take a time out to plan some more, what then? Someone else will claim that the issue has not been planned well enough. More delays.
            If we can’t house people because a nearby park is not in good repair, then every excuse will be valid for a delay. This isn’t “winter is coming” anymore. Winter done come. The city needs to deal with it.

          • dunning-kruger

            Agreed with Sigh. That park comment ruined his bluff. It is just naked NIMBYism with some “concerns” in body paint to try and trick the rhetorically inept.

          • dcd

            I think the problem here is that the issue was foreseen, and the Mayor’s office spent a lot of time coming up with a plan – the primary “virtue” of which was to enrich the pockets of her chief contributors. When there was an outcry about that, The counsel came up with an alternative plan that does NOT appear to be well-thought out.
            I agree the OP is a little off putting, but I didn’t have the same reaction to it that others did only because I read a long comment thread over on GGW that was, in large part, much, much worse.

        • Glover Park

          Or, he’s making those points because they specifically affect his own neighborhood, irrespective of race/socioeconomic status/etc. If you hadn’t meant to make this about race, then why’d you bring it up in the first place?

          The whole point is to question the mayor’s office and our council members. Clearly, as has been pointed out repeatedly, DC General has been mismanaged. Clearly, also, the mayor’s office blatantly is interested in lining the pockets of her supporters; so pardon everyone who’s more than a bit skeptical about the intent behind, and planning process towards, the new shelter plan. Asking reasonable questions *now* ensures that we have more of a voice, and that implementation of the facilities is done well, so that we aren’t back in this situation in another 20 years.

          Finally, I think you’d be very surprised to see the different types of diversity in Ward 3. Most of us there aren’t WASPs.

          • dunning-kruger

            Regardless of whether it is about race for the OP, this type of NIMBYism is a racial issue.
            Who has the political capital to kill these things in the cradle? Who doesn’t? Who ends up with all the undesirable stuff in their neighborhoods?
            That was acknowledged as part of this plan from the start. White NIMBYs with excessive political capital block these things successfully all the time so they end up in minority neighborhoods. At the onset of this plan they said they were going to break the status quo on that but here come the NIMBYs with their list of “concerns.” All of which should be bigger concerns to poor and working class neighborhoods which are in far worse shape to cope with these issues, but that is no concern to this guy as “we already do our fair share to help address homelessness”– translation “anywhere but here, anyone but me.” Whether the OP knows this, cares, or not is irrelevant because it is the reality of the situation and how things unfold when this guy, the guy on Albermarle, and every other upper middle class guy get because of their immense political capital compared to working class people.

          • textdoc

            The political capital derives from socioeconomic status, not race per se. However, in the District race is usually a proxy for socioeconomic status.

          • dunning-kruger

            No argument here; in the context of this city it may as well be the same and there is kind of a chicken/egg issue with race/socioeconomics in this country as well. We can further the same racist policies and practices under the auspice of socioeconomics or recognize it is 6 of one half dozen of the other and try to better our society.

    • Anon

      I mostly agree with your sentiment, but I think it’s unfair to peg the issue entirely on racism. It’s so much more complicated than that. I’ve seen fierce NIMBYism against similar proposals in some of the whitest communities in the country. People invest a lot emotionally and financially in their housing, and it plays out very poorly when they believe those investments are at risk and they feel their government is not responsive. These arguments the neighbors are making are classic NIMBY arguments that are easy to address and the city should be prepared to work with the neighborhood. This can and should be a success for everyone involved. I hope it actually is.

      • tom

        It’s not racism, it is a highly specific form of classism with clear racial impacts. But, classism dosen’t have the same rehotical effect.

        It is prefectly rational for people that live near a homeless shelter to oppose them.
        My husband and I are an inter-racial couple and we would prefer not to have a homeless shelter put in across the street. I would wager most people would feel the same way.

        But, what is good for us as NIMBYers is not good for the city as a whole. The goal of public policy should be to advance the common good. We need homeless shelters for both ethical and practical reasons. This means distributing them across the city, perferably in mixed-use areas with good transit connections.

        Perhaps, DC should provide property modest tax breaks to owner-occupied residences located within X feet of a shelter to compensate those who are doing more of the “burden sharing.”

  • Anon

    Same Tynan responsible for funding the failed “Tynan Coffee” franchise?

  • WardOne

    Homeless need to be housed. This feels like NIMBY ward 3, one percenters advocating for putting the homeless anywhere but Ward 3. I’d say, Ward 3 (and Georgetown) are long overdue for some facilities to house homeless. Plus, if we really care about homeless families, don’t we want to put at least some of them in the best schools in DC, rather than the worst.

    • Woodridge Res


    • Dognonymous

      If these facilities are used as intended–temporary housing, 90-day max–I’m not sure children living at the shelter would be switching into their boundary school. Doubt that has all been figured out yet.

      • 18th Street

        What are the odds that people are really only going to be staying in these facilities for 90 days?

    • ET

      I have to say the the spiel about doing g a study looks like a delay and deny tactic which is sort of one of the reasons they did this behind closed doors in the first place. AND even if there was a months long study there would be more reasons thrown out to stop one in a particular neighborhood. People would be questioning how it was done, disagreeing with the results, etc.

    • Philippe Lecheval

      There are lots and lots of renters living in Ward 3. It’s not all wealthy homeowners.

      • good point

        You’re right, it’s not just wealthy homeowners but wealthy renters.

        • Philippe Lecheval

          Now that would depend upon how you define wealthy. But I’d wager to say that there’s an enormous chasm between the net worth of the average homeowner and the average renter in the neighborhood. You have some of the city’s most expensive single family homes just a block or two away from big old apartment buildings with rents that are quite a bit lower than those in the “hip” parts of town.

    • Not a 1%er

      Um…you do realize that the surrounding neighborhood is totally middle class and actually much less affluent than the rest of the ward, right? And yet we are the ones who just happen to get a homeless shelter. Where do you live? If it’s in another, richer part of Ward 3 please STFU about my neighborhood. God, you people. I was neutral on the shelter but all the nasty guilt-tripping is making me reconsider.

  • Amber

    I was at the Ward 5 version of this meeting Friday night with CM McDuffie and CM Mendelson, as well as a rep from HHS. As to the problems of DC General being transferred to the neighborhood, they were quick to mention that DC General houses several populations (as well as providing “out-patient” services, like a methadone clinic, that brings people to the location), not just the families that will go into the shelters being discussed. (Not sure where the other people will go, I guess to other existing shelters?).
    I rolled my eyes hard when someone stood up and opened with “I’m not prejudiced against the homeless, but…” I feel like there should be a Godwin’s law version of that statement, because basically, when ever you say “I’m not… but…” you totally are. Another woman tried to give a whole “You all think I’m a middle aged white bitch, but I’m not, I do care about the homeless, I have a homeless man living in my home right now that I took off the street and I’ve helped him with detox and education, how many of you have taken in a homeless person?! But also, I don’t want this on our street.” Later she pounced on me at a bar to talk more and I couldn’t get a word in edgewise that it’s neither appropriate nor feasible for everyone to take in a homeless person: most people do not have the social services training to adequately help direct people to the resources they need. She said she didn’t either, but she did it from the goodness of her heart. (I refrained from suggesting this might be why she has a homeless man in her basement 5 years later, and he hasn’t transitioned to his own housing. Also, apparently she couldn’t take in the man’s daughter, because that would be too much work, so way to break up a family neighborhood lady!)
    I do agree that the city needs to have some long-term perspective regarding the buildings: I live across the street from a 100% low-income complex, and the land owners signed a lease with the city for 50 years, which expires in 2 years. In the past 50 years, they’ve realized that the “100% low income housing projects” were uniformly a terrible idea (in DC, in Chicago, in St. Louis…), but they were locked into a lease. They need to account for the fact that even high end office buildings will eventually be out-of-date and out-of-code and need to be torn down, and in 30 years the best place to have a shelter in DC might be in a very different location.

    • T

      Commenting on your story about the woman who took in a homeless man. I agree with you that it is really important that we not hinder people from improving their situation by trying to help them in misguided ways. However, given the lack of affordable housing in DC, I’d argue that even if this woman hasn’t supported him as well as a social worker could, at least he has a place to live. If she had never taken him in, there is no guarantee that he would be any better off than he is now. It is pretty cool to hear about someone caring enough to take someone in. In regard to breaking up his family, I assume she didn’t force him into her basement, so that feels like a stretch. Even if what she’s doing isn’t perfect, and even if she doesn’t agree with this exact plan for the shelter, her story is a nice example of humanity. Thanks for sharing it.

      • Amber

        I mean, previous interaction with the woman suggest she lacks a lot of humanity and basic civility on the more global scale (you can be nice to one person, and still a dick to everyone else). Other parts of her argument fell firmly into the misguided (“if only it were not _facing_ the street, but was one block off the street! That would be totally different!” You were just complaining about property values, and how the shelter should be further from single family homes.)
        I guess she’s better than my neighbor who wrote letters trying to advocate that they shouldn’t close DC General, but should instead renovate one floor at a time.

        • Brookland neighbor

          The person you are berating is an amazingly giving and supportive member of our community. You should be ashamed with how rude and close-minded your comments are. Everyone was given the opportunity to express their opinion and perspective on the homeless shelter at the meeting, and your response is immature, short-sighted, and nasty. The RI Ave location is just a few blocks from an area of heavy drug abuse, and the businesses there are just getting their feet wet and need more support. Public Option had their picnic tables stolen, Good Food Markets was robbed and sent a plea to the neighborhood that they need more support, and Nido’s reviews often comment on it being a quiet off-the-beaten track place which translates to not a great deal of foot traffic. Also, none of these businesses are adequate resources for a struggling homeless population. If we first fixed the problems in our neighborhood and strengthened our businesses here, then we could support a homeless shelter. Excuse me for wanting to see both the homeless population and the neighborhood succeed.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Agreed. If you want to complain about her being preachy and trying to set a standard that most of us, including me and apparently you do not even aspire to, that’s fair, but dissing her actual actions is pretty lame.

  • lizcolleena

    It seems to me that these standards should apply to every site, not just one of the few sites selected in wealthier areas. If a more rigorous site selection process or safety analysis or nationwide search for professional, experienced management (etc) needs to be completed, that should be done for every location. Living in NW DC shouldn’t entitle you to better service or guaranteed funding or revamped parks or special treatment of any kind.

    That being said, some of this seems pretty hyperbolic and the OP seems relatively uninformed. It’s not surprising that new construction is cheaper than renovation – abatement is often more costly. At one point he said the site wasn’t zoned for 50, but later said he “welcome[s] the input of folks with a detailed knowledge of the zoning and improvement process.” And the “think of the children” cry is so annoying – you think of those 80+ children. So your park may seem a little more wear and tear – these kids are living in a shelter, you can’t have a little compassion?

    BTW is Chris Tynan involved with the coffee shops?

    • FridayGirl

      I agree with your first paragraph. I’m wondering if perhaps Ward 3 residents just have more time/less life-or-death things to worry about than some of the other wards, and thus, are more likely to be vocal about this site.

      • pwe

        trust – a lot of people in Ward 5 aren’t too happy about the 1700 RI Ave selection either..

        • textdoc

          Right, but I think LizColleena is speculating that Ward 3’s proportion of residents who are inclined to be squeaky wheels, advocate for themselves to the city government, etc. is probably greater than that of other wards. And that sounds very likely to me.

    • Very similar concerns about the Ward 4 location on Kennedy were also circulated around the neighborhood. Some major concerns: there will be kids in that shelter, but there are no parks nearby or playground facilities planned. The shelter has no planned kitchen or cooking facilities – a all!. It is more than half a mile away from the metro, and not close to any major bus lines. There was no planned space for support services in the shelter. These questions all seem legitimate to me – how does the location then really help people who are trying to get back on their feet? I like that the shelter locations are scattered around the city, but is there truly not a better spot in all of Ward 4?

      • FridayGirl

        “The shelter has no planned kitchen or cooking facilities – a all!.”
        Seriously? I didn’t know that. That is absolutely unacceptable. The concerns you raise are exactly the types of questions we should be asking — these sites should at least have basic, decent accommodations like a small kitchen to cook in. Talk about keeping the poor poor, having to eat takeout and instant food all the time….

        • Here’s the link petition that circulated on the Ward 4 listservs, which includes this excerpt: “Plans for the facility presented at a community meeting asking for feedback on proposed exterior work showed that the facility will not include individual or community kitchens, and representatives from the Mayor’s office explained that the facility residents would be able to purchase food locally and bring it in.”

          I just looked at the site and the Mayor’s Office did respond to the above concern saying that 3 meals/day will be provided in the dining room, but there’s no link to the plans of the shelter, and the link to the site schematic concerning the playgrounds doesn’t work.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Lots of fair points here, but proximity to metro is a red herring. I have worked as a long-term volunteer at both a soup kitchen and a shelter two blocks from a metro station and the proportion of our guests who came and went by metro was very close to zero – it was all about the bus. Why? Cost. When you are extremely poor, the cost differential between metro and bus is astronomical.

        • textdoc

          Ahh — good point.

  • anon

    Really surprised by the negative comments on this letter, which seems like a mostly straightforward attempt to make this work—not NIMBYism. For example, rather than fear-mongering about the schools or crime (like the anonymous pamphlet circulated last week), the author asks for proportionally increasing services, which sounds like a completely fair response.

    To those panning this letter, what kind of response would you like to see, on a scale between this letter (0) and letting the homeless live in his basement (10)?

    • dunning-kruger

      Its a ruse, helped along by some pretty slick rhetoric. He even masterfully works in the possibility that this is a slippery slope which could turn McLean Gardens into a Chicago mega-project by well meaning but inept public officials…

    • Anon

      Honestly, most of it is not well-researched and is classic NIMBYism, though the tone isn’t as hyperbolic as it could have been. Site selection is usually a good way to delay- insist on a more rigorous process or a review of how the site was selected and you can usually buy a few months or more of delay. Reviews of safety impacts, selection process, management, etc. are also classic delay tactics. Also, new construction is almost always easier to finance and cheaper to build than rehabilitating older buildings, especially since the city already owns the land, but that’s not immediately obvious unless you talk to developers, which it appears they didn’t. In the end, even if they city did everything that is in this letter, neighbors probably won’t be convinced until the development is built and they don’t notice any changes in the neighborhood.

  • Anonymous

    There may be some fair points in this letter but the author lost me when he conflated a notorious, high-rise, crime-ridden housing project like Cabrini Green in Chicago with a 50 unit shelter in a stable residential neighborhood.

  • Franklin

    If you have spent any time working with homeless populations you will realize an unfortunately high percentage of them are addicts or suffer from mental disorders. The percent that is disabled or elderly is not likely to cycle out of homelessness either. That leaves you with a very thin margin of people who can recover and get back on their feet. Naturally no one what’s a large population of the the chroniclely homeless in their neighborhood. But in 2016 you can’t say that or your “racist” which is hilarious because it implies that people are dogmatic idiots and not reacting to what they see. Often the person screaming racism is implicitly making a racist assumption but whatever that’s not cool to talk about.

    • Ava16

      Actually, only about 15% of homeless people are chronically homeless (the population you described). Another 37% are homeless families.

    • Anonymous

      1) This shelter is going to house homeless families, not homeless single adults.

      2) With respect to homeless single adults with the kinds of addiction and mental disorders you describe, you might want to look up the “housing first” model, which gives people like this immediate access to permanent, supportive housing for dealing with their homelessness. The theory behind this approach is that providing access to housing first allows people with these kinds of issues to more easily access services to address the issues since they are no longer dealing with the chaos of homelessness. It’s actually proven to be a very successful model.

      • AnonStreeter

        Oh that’s right. I forgot that having children means you can’t have a substance abuse problem or mental health issue holding you back. You are just down on your luck.

    • ANON

      Agreed. Nobody really wants a homeless shelter as their neighbor regardless of race or creed. Compassionate people can accept it as a cost to a well-functioning society. But, all things being equal, the vast majority don’t actively desire a shelter in close proximity to their home.

      Since we feel compelled to offer these services in a civilized society we will also have to be open to debate on where these services should be provided. It’s tough to balance the needs of the homeless, the needs of the city, the desires of its politicians and the wishes of its citizens. Of all those actors the homeless have no agenda, the city needs to provide services, and the politicians and homeowners have strong personal interests and bias at play.

      To say that someone who doesn’t want a homeless person is flat out racist or NIMBY may not be the most constructive way to have a conversation. They may be a little classist, but I can see their point of view. There’s a strong perception that homelessness and crime are intermingled. So it makes sense that people who live near the proposed site would raise concerns. They may be unfounded, but it is up to the city to dispel them.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Strategic tip: accept the 50-family shelter without argument. When the time comes for a proposal to have a shelter for 100 single adult men in your neighborhood, you can legitimately claim, “but we already have this family shelter right here!” I’m sure you’d rather have a family shelter than a shelter for single men if you had to pick one or the other, which in all seriousness you might someday have to.
        You’re right – I would prefer not to have a shelter across the street from my house. However, if the city were to propose to put a shelter for 50 homeless families across the street from my house, I would not protest and I honestly would not be particularly concerned about it. I’d probably see if I could volunteer there, hopefully help, and at least get to know my new neighbors. [If they were to propose a shelter for single men, I would be considerably less enthusiastic about it. I don’t know if I’d actively protest it, but yeah, I’d be less enthusiastic about a shelter for single men than one for families]

  • sara

    As a Ward 3 resident, I am so disappointed at the more vocal opponents of the shelter and their quick calls to shun people they do not deem as part of their “community” but sadly I am not surprised. There have been comments about people not wanting homeless people near their community gardens or in their schools and that the fact they pay taxes means they shouldn’t have to have a homeless population nearby. They don’t want answers or more information about the plan, they just want shelters anywhere but in their ward. I agree with “sigh”…there is obviously a racial component at play as well…this is the same listserve where people routinely have discussions about “suspicious” black and brown people and someone claimed a police officer told him he should call the police if he sees a black man in the neighborhood bc black people aren’t in that area.

  • S20016

    This is the more tidied up, neutral for public consumption version of the objections, but some of the other comments on neighborhood listserves and blogs have been more overtly racist or just outright ridiculous in looking for reasons to fight the project (example – it’s near a liquor store and therefore people with substance abuse problems in the shelter will be tempted; an open air drug market will materialize in front of the police station). It’s there, barely under the surface.

    I also live in the neighborhood affected, and I think there are a lot of fair questions that need to be answered. IMO the council’s proposal is about as poorly planned out as the mayor’s original one, albeit for different reasons. And I would be a lot more comfortable if I knew any shelter could be run by a legitimate, well-established nonprofit with experience, rather than the DC govt or through political cronyism.

    But I’m very much in favor of having small, community shelters rather than something like DC General, even if one if them, like this one, is in my neighborhood. There are a few loud voices, but they don’t represent everyone in the neighborhood or the Ward.

    • LP

      +1 There hasn’t been a lot of community engagement until recently when there was an outcry from concerned residents. I think if there is more thoughtful engagement and answers to the legitimate questions raised, more residents would feel at ease. I also agree that a lot of concerns would be alleviated if this was not run by the DC gov.

  • 18th Street

    Is there a neighborhood that actually WANTS one of these shelters?

    • 18th Street

      If so, put it there. If not, stop vilifying people for having the same distrust of this plan as you do.

      • LittleBluePenguin

        “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”

        Over and over again, I have witnessed on this site your blatant disdain and disregard for those in need. It is simply appalling, and I truly wonder how you sleep at night.

      • Anonymous

        There are neighborhoods that already have shelters like this, and/or shelters for homeless single adults, halfway houses, methadone clinics, etc. Time to spread the wealth.

        • AnonStreeter

          Yes, but: I’m a young person saving pennies for a down payment on my first home. I get it, I’m not homeless so cry me a river, but honestly after several years of packed lunches, and no vacations, and eloping/no wedding/no honeymoon/no kids bc who can afford fertility treatment, and MFing rolling coins, and waiting after events to shove leftover food in my briefcase to save $ on the next day’s lunch/dinner, and walking miles to walk round trip each day to save on transportation costs, and just trying to scape together 5-7 bucks here and there after my school loans, my wife’s school loans, and our insanely high rent – and if after all of this, if we buy a place and then next door they open a homeless shelter and there goes like 20% of our investment and like 90% of our next worth,, and years of hard work down the drain, then I’m supposed to just be happy for the common good?
          I’m so sick of everyone taking about how these are going in “rich” neighborhoods so residents who complain are “racist” or “NIMBYs.” Actually, these shelters are going in the not-swanky pockets, meaning the affected property owners are just middle class folks who are taking a disproportionately big hit. It’s the ol’ – just when you thought youd reached “upper middle class,” X comes and smacks you right back down to lower middle class. Meanwhile, actual “rich” people – landowners with sweetheart deal sales to gov’t, the CMs, the developers, etc. – are laughing all the way to bank.

  • Not a one percenter

    A lot of the comments here seem to be premised on the idea that McLean Gardens is some sort of one percenter paradise. In fact, while very pleasant, it is one of the least affluent parts of Ward 3. House prices are way less than in parts of Petworth and Columbia Heights. So all this talk about “sharing the burden” rings a little hollow. Shouldn’t they be doing the same in Friendship Heights and Tenleytown? Honestly, I was agnostic or even mildly supportive of the shelter, but all the lectures (many no doubt coming from lefty one percenters who live far away) about how I am a terrible person for worrying about crime and schools (sorry, we can’t afford Maret) are making me start to change my mind.

    • HaileUnlikely

      I do not assume that everybody in your ward is filthy rich, but housing prices are a bit of a red herring. Some of the newly-gentrified neighborhoods are catching up to or slightly surpassing the property values that Ward 3 has enjoyed for decades. There is a lot of new money moving into Petworth, Columbia Heights, etc., but still a lot of poverty there, too. There is hardly any legit poverty in Ward 3.

      • Not a one percenter

        That doesn’t really address the issue I was raising, which is that it feels a tad unfair that the least affluent part of Ward 3–where the residents are mostly middle class and probably have the most to lose from declining property values, crime, bad schools, etc.–is the one being asked to “step up” and then being roundly condemned when people raise legitimate concerns (by a councilmember from a far richer part of the ward, no less). Again, I was not against the shelter before all the controversy broke out, but the whole process is really rubbing me the wrong way.

        • textdoc

          I can understand the concerns about property values* and crime… but it doesn’t seem plausible that the presence of a relatively small number of homeless children is going to result in “bad schools.”
          *I doubt it would actually be a decline — probably just increasing at a slower rate than otherwise.

  • Chris

    Very well written and 100% correct.. There is a lot of NIMBY-ism going around in the shelter debate but honestly, these are all valid points. That said, you have to balance these concerns with the two biggest priorities here: First, to get these families out of DC General and the Days Inn as soon as humanly possible, and second, to distribute the burden of housing the homeless across all 8 wards.

    It’s not going to be perfect. There’s going to be wasted money and mismanagement (welcome to DC). By all means, show up at community meetings and try to hold officials accountable. But if your goal is to derail the project (or delay it for years) then I can’t get behind that.

  • Cheryl Timmons

    How do you even know this guy isn’t a non-white individual? Making assumptions about HIS race IS racist. Let’s try to have an adult conversation based on facts that treats both the homeless and those who comment on the issue with HUMANITY.

    • Dan Devlin

      Agree with you! I think some of these comments on race were made by Bowser “plants.” They think this is a way to muzzle the community and shut off discussion.

      By the way, we are going to start putting sign-in sheets out at community meetings because I know for sure that Bowser supporters who live in Ward 1 attended our Ward 3 meeting. Would be interesting to see how many of these folks are actually on the city payroll.

      Let’s be adults and give everyone a chance to make their case without lowbrow political tactics.

      • AnonStreeter

        I really wish this wasn’t the way to muzzle and shut off discussion

    • Patricia

      Who assumed he was white? And regardless of whether that assumption was made, non-white individuals can be racist too. Case in point: George Zimmerman.

      Moreover, discussing race is an adult conversation. Generally, socioeconomic status does overlap largely with race. Specifically, if you live in DC or have ever visited DC General, you would know that African Americans by far constitute a majority of the homeless population. Dismissing race because it makes you uncomfortable (or perhaps you’re tired of people “making” things about race, when they are about race to begin with) is not very adult. So what’s your real reason?

      Moreover, I would venture to say that many of the people that are opposing the homeless shelters in their neighborhoods “because” of reasons like the Op pointed out above, are the same ones who woud never donate money to be homeless. Purchase them food. So to be all of a sudden worried about their wellbeing not seems very suspicious indeed…


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