D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser revealed the locations for the District's new homeless family shelters in each ward during a breakfast with the D.C. Council Tuesday.
In November, District officials voted to close the notorious shelter located in the old D.C. General Hospital.
Bowser hopes to phase out D.C. General over the next two years, as the new short-term homeless shelters open in the following locations:
- Ward 1: 2105-2107 10th St. NW (29 units)
- Ward 2: 810 5th St. NW (213-bed women's shelter)
- Ward 3: 2619 Wisconsin Ave. NW (38 units)
- Ward 4: 5505 5th St. NW (49 units)
- Ward 5: 2266 25th Place NE (50 units)
- Ward 6: 700 Delaware Ave. SW (50 units)
- Ward 7: 5004 D St. SE (35 units)
- Ward 8: 6th & Chesapeake Sts. SE (50 units)
Bowser said the new shelters will provide a safer environment than the old hospital, from which an 8-year-old girl, Relisha Rudd, disappeared almost two years ago. Rudd was last seen March 1, 2014, on surveillance video at a D.C. motel with a janitor from the shelter. He later committed suicide.
"We worked hard over the last several months to make sure we have smaller, dignified facilities all over Washington, D.C., where families can have a safe place to move toward permanent housing," Bowser said.
The new facilities will be located in neighborhoods and in locations that will likely meet some resistance from neighbors not accustomed to having a short-term residential facility close to their homes and schools. Bowser said she knows there will "difficult conversations" ahead when she takes her plan to the community in coming days.
"You know, I am a ward council member, ANC commissioner at heart and now I'm mayor, so I know how we can place facilities in neighborhoods where they fit in," Bowser told News4.
The proposed facilities will house between 29 and 50 families each. The Ward 2 facility will have 213 beds for women only and opens Wednesday. The other seven shelters will open in 2018.
"We're on a pretty strict timeline, and so we need all of the proposed units to come online in 2018," Bowser said. "And if we are able to do that, and there's no reason we shouldn't be, we can close D.C. General in 2018."
Opponents have said they're against the smaller shelters because they lack private bathrooms. Parents cite concerns for children potentially sharing a bathroom with adults not related to them.
D.C. General currently costs about $17 million a year to operate. The new shelters that will replace it will cost about $22 million a year, said Laura Zeilinger, director of the District's Department of Human Services.
"From the outside it will look like other buildings in the neighborhood, and it will not be distinguishable as a program that serves people who are experiencing a housing need," Zeilinger said.
D.C. General is currently home to about 250 families; another 730 are being housed in hotels in the District and Maryland at a cost of about $90 a day. The Bowser administration has ramped up efforts to transition families from shelters to more stable housing. Last year, more than 1,000 families were moved to permanent housing.
This is not the first time the District has tried to open homeless shelters in neighborhoods. An attempt to turn Guy Mason Recreation Center into a homeless shelter by former Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly was rejected by neighbors and ultimately was scrubbed. In 2013, the D.C. Council considered funding a shelter at the former Hebrew Home on Spring Road in Ward 4. But neighbors pushed back with the help of then-councilmember Muriel Bowser. Bowser said her concerns about the Hebrew Home location back then are not in conflict with her plan now.
"The proposals around 1125 Spring Road were nothing like this because what we've said is that these locations should not be more than 50 units," Bowser said. "These locations must fit into the neighborhoods where they are."
The mayor will need the support of the council to implement her plan as it will need funding and some zoning changes.
When asked if the locations might change after she's had feedback from the community, Bowser indicated that wasn't likely.
"In some cases, it was very hard to find locations," Bowser said. "I think that communities are going to find that we put a lot of thought into how these units will be located. We are going to look forward to a follow-up discussion with community members about how the communities look and how they can be designed to best fit into the neighborhood."