Ward 6 Shelter to Be Located in Southwest

850 Delware Ave. SW Site Selected by Council

On Tuesday, May 31, the DC Council approved a bill to replace the DC General homeless shelter. The so-called “Homeward DC” plan moving its residents to a new set of smaller institutions spread throughout the city by 2018. Taking issue with the original draft introduced by Mayor Muriel Bowser, the Council shifted many of the shelters from private leases to city-owned, publicly constructed facilities.

Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), David Grosso (I-At Large), Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), LaRuby May (D-Ward 8), Anita Bonds (D-At Large), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4), Phil Mendelson (D-Chair) voted in favor of the measure. Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) and Vincent Orange (D-At Large). The Council's unanimous vote in favor makes the legislation veto proof.

Hailing the shelter bill's passage, Council Chair Phil Mendelson stated, “The facilities the Council has approved will enable the District to meet the needs of parents and children experiencing homelessness in a more humane and dignified manner, consistent with the values of all District residents.”

At the suggestion of Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, the Council relocated the Ward 6 shelter to a city parcel at 850 Delaware Ave. SW. Currently, this is the location of the Unity Health Care's Southwest Clinic. It is zoned R-4 which restricts structural height to 40 feet and lot occupancy to 60 percent.

Arguing for new location, Allen pointed out that Southwest community had suggested it as an alternative the Mayor's initial plan to locate the shelter at 700 Delaware Ave. SW. The new site does not possess the same historic preservation and zoning issues, Allen stated. It will also permit the construction of a lower, mixed-use building and lower building height, he continued.

In addition, Allen announced a commitment from the Mayor to incorporate a rebuilt Unity Health Care Clinic into the new Southwest Shelter. Furthermore, “The administration will partner with DC Housing Authority to protect and preserve Greenleaf public housing through a Build First model of redevelopment as prioritized by the Southwest community,” Allen stated.

The Council's move was applauded by Unity Health Care. “Unity Health Care greatly appreciates the Council of the District of Columbia and specifically Councilmember Charles Allen’s commitment to keeping community health care within the Southwest community,” the organization's press release stated. “Maintaining health care access is critical to the almost 4,000 patients who call the Southwest Health Center their medical home...we applaud the efforts of the Council and other local advocates like the local ANC Commissioners to address the health and social needs of the Southwest community and the homeless families who all will benefit from a new shelter and health center,” release continued.

“We are very very pleased,” stated Unity CEO and President Vincent A. Keane in an interview with the Hill Rag.

The new Southwest Shelter site was quickly embraced by neighborhood leaders. “I think that locating a shelter on the Unity site avoids some of the challenges and brings some additional community benefits compared to the Blind Whino site. I look forward to learning more details of the Council's plan. Councilmember Allen and I will be arranging opportunities for the neighborhood to provide input into the design and operation of a shelter and new health clinic on the site,” stated Commissioner Stacy Braverman Cloyd (6D02), whose Single Member District contains the Unity site.

Speaking of the Mayor's new commitments, Commissioner Rachel Reilly Carroll (6D04), stated, “Build First phasing avoids the instability that arises due to the displacement of families and seniors, and this outcome is a testament to the unwavering commitment that Southwest residents have shown as we collectively advocated for a thoughtful redevelopment strategy for Greenleaf. This is the right thing to do for Southwest and Greenleaf residents, and I want to thank Councilmember Allen, Director Todman and Mayor Bowser for their leadership.”

Even a stubborn critic of the mayor's earlier plan was swayed. “The new location (850 Delaware Ave. SE) is a site that the community had previously identified. We look forward to working with the Mayor to ensure the best possible facility is constructed,” stated Robert Hall, president of the Board of Directors of the adjacent Capitol Park IV Condominiums. Hall had threatened legal action to prevent the city from constructing a shelter at 700 Delaware Ave. SW, which is immediately adjacent to his townhouse community.

Councilmember Allen has promised to hold a community meeting on the Southwest Shelter in the immediate future. Visit www.hillrag.com for an announcement.