Muriel Bowser opens second homeless shelter
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Tuesday opened the second homeless shelter to replace the dilapidated facility at the former D.C. General Hospital campus part of her campaign promise to close D.C. General by the end of the year and to make homelessness “rare” in the District by 2020.
The new shelter, at 5004 D St. SE, can house 35 families. Miss Bowser said the new building will provide “more dignified” living than D.C. General, even as public opposition to her plan continues.
“We have been working very hard to make sure a city as prosperous as ours can support families that need a second chance,” the Democratic mayor told a crowd of about 100 people at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new facility. Miss Bowser said the former hospital was “too old, too big” to house families “for even one more day.”
Dubbed The Horizon, the new shelter in Ward 7 contains computer labs, a recreation center, a study, and a playground. It’s the second of seven new shelters to replace D.C. General, which the city began demolishing in August amid protest from the public. The mayor opened the first new shelter The Kennedy last month in Ward 4 with room for 45 families.
“It is wonderful to stand here and say, ‘D.C. General is no more,’” said D.C. Council member Vincent Gray, Ward 7 Democrat, during Tuesday’s ceremony. He said the homeless shelter was an issue that other former mayors, including himself, had wrestled with.
Both new shelters stand empty because about 200 families who once lived at the D.C. General facility now have apartments, according to Dora Taylor, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Human Services.
“Thirty-four families remain at D.C. General today,” Ms. Taylor told The Washington Times. “None of them will be moving to The Kennedy, as all of the families have been matched with an apartment awaiting inspection.”
Activists protested outside Miss Bowser’s house in July following her announcement to begin demolition of a vacant D.C. General building 250 feet from where the remaining families live. They cited concerns about asbestos and lead exposure, which causes permanent developmental delays in children.
Demolition halted that same month when soil around the building tested positive for lead, reported WAMU Radio.
Greer Gillis, director of the D.C. Department of General Services, told The Washington Post the city would “finalize an abatement plan” based on the amount of lead and continue interior demolition.
Council member Brianne Nadeau, Ward 1 Democrat and chair of the Committee on Human Services, wrote a letter to Ms. Gillis citing “deep concerns about the level of transparency that has been afforded D.C. Council” and demanded details about the asbestos and lead abatement plan.
The mayor still plans to tear down D.C. General by the end of the year, according to a Tuesday press release, and has scheduled the opening of Ward 8′s shelter in November.
A spokeswoman for the mayor said shelters in Wards 3, 5 and 6 will open next fall. The shelter for Ward 1 will not open until spring 2020, and Ward 2 will continue to use the Patricia Handy Place for Women, a women’s shelter, according to a 2017 press release forwarded by the spokeswoman.
Activists and council members have questioned Miss Bowser’s rush to close D.C. General, some speculating it’s because the mayor is readying the site for Amazon’s headquarter scouts. Spokespeople for the mayor have denied the link.