Mayor Announces New Homeless Shelter in SW

As part of Mayor Muriel Bowser's goal of closing the DC General Homeless Shelter, the District has announced plans to build a family shelter behind the Blind Whino art gallery at 700 Delaware Ave. SW. “In a city as prosperous as ours, there is no reason we should keep families at DC General. The building is too big, too old and too far removed from the services that get families back on their feet,” said Mayor Bowser.

The District’s Department of General Services (DGS) has identified eight sites for the new short-term family housing, one in each ward. Criteria for selection included: space sufficient to collectively serve the same number of residents currently at DC General; access to services and public transportation. The eight locations include a mix of District-owned or newly purchased properties and leased private property. Here are the locations:

  • 2105-2107 10th St. NW (Ward 1);

  • 810 Fifth St. NW (Ward 2);

  • 2619 Wisconsin Ave. NW (Ward 3);

  • 5505 Fifth St. NW (Ward 4);

  • 2266 25th Pl. NE (Ward 5);

  • 700 Delaware Ave. SW (Ward 6);

  • 5004 D St. SE (Ward 7);

  • Sixth Street & Chesapeake Street SE (Ward 8).

“When I ran for Mayor, I heard loud and clear from our residents across our city that our city can - and must - do better. I have been working with the Council on a plan that will create small, short-term family housing. These facilities will be modern, safe and dignified – and will bring us one big step closer to our goal of ending homelessness in the District of Columbia,” the Mayor stated in her press release announcing the locations.

Delaware Avenue Homeless Housing

The Ward 6 shelter on Delaware Avenue would be built directly in the rear of the Blind Whino gallery, located in the original Friendship Baptist Church, a well known historic landmark. The parcel was purchased in 2003 by Square 643 LLC, a limited liability corporation controlled by Capitol Hill real estate developer Steve Tanner. The city plans to sign a long-term lease on the property, stated a source on the council.

Currently, Tanner's property is zoned R-4, which allows the by-right development of townhouses. In 2005, the Zoning Commission granted Tanner's request to have the property up-zoned to R-5-C. The plan would have preserved the church, while allowing the developer to wrap it in an L-shaped apartment building. Its northern section would have been four stories rising to seven stories on the east side. The Zoning Commission renewed Tanner's PUD twice. The PUD expired in 2012.

The site is just to the north of the proposed twelve-story apartment building planned as part of the redevelopment of the Randall School, and adjacent to Unity's southwest clinic.

“In order to build the proposed structure, the city will have to get its plan approved by the Zoning Commission. This will require a new PUD and map amendment to adjust zoning to R-5-C,” stated Gary Peterson, chair of the Capitol Hill Restoration Society Zoning Committee.

The process will require the city to argue its case in front of Advisory Neighborhood Commission. “At that time we all will have had a chance to learn more detailed information about what is anticipated on that site,” stated ANC 6A Chair Andy Litsky.

Commissioner Stacy Cloyd, whose single member district (6D02) contains the proposed site, was more direct in her assessment of the mayor's plans.

"This site would not have been my first choice in Ward 6, ANC 6D, or even single-member district 6D02, but the Mayor did not provide any opportunity for public input on shelter locations,"  Cloyd told the Hill Rag.

"I believe that there will ultimately be some sort of homeless services on the site, but ANC 6D will be able to weigh in on the building's design and obtain other commitments from the city as the parcel goes through the PUD process.  Our opinions will be given great weight.  My goal is to hold the District accountable for making this shelter the safest, cleanest, and best-run one our city has ever seen."

Cloyd's determination to make the situation work is echoed by Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen.

"There's been talk for years about how to close DC General. This is the first time I see a real plan to achieve that and take care of families. We will ask tough questions to ensure success, but do not underestimate the capacity of our residents to care about all of their neighbors. I will work with residents in Southwest to answer questions, ensure a smart plan and make this proposal a success for neighborhood and neighbors in need," Allen stated.

The city will hold a meeting on Thursday, Feb. 11 at Friendship Baptist Church at 6:30 p.m. to discuss it's plans. For more information, visit the Mayor's Office website.

This article has been updated to include comments by Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen and ANC Commissioner Stacy Cloyd.