Near the famous – and expensive – Watergate complex in Foggy Bottom, local officials at Miriam’s Kitchen come face-to-face every day with homelessness, hunger and desperation.
The kitchen at 2400 Virginia Ave. NW serves hot meals twice a day to about 300 people and provides many of them with counseling and job references.
“We know how to get the most vulnerable people off the streets and into housing,” said Sara Gibson, chief development officer for the outreach facility.
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But every part of the city’s homeless network can use more support and cooperation.
On Monday, Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser used Miriam’s Kitchen as a backdrop to announce new human service officials and to pledge again to do more for the homeless.
“My focus is not on creating more shelters but creating more housing opportunities,” Bowser said. “We know in a city like ours we will always have a need for emergency housing; we’ll always have a need for transitional housing…”
Bowser takes office at noon on Friday. She said her housing officials already are exploring ways to improve a wide range of city services to homeless families. Under incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray, the city booked at least two hotels for the cold winter season that is fast approaching.
Bowser said emergency shelter is important but the city also has to do more long-range planning. She said it’s her intent to close the dilapidated shelter at the old D.C. General Hospital as soon as possible. Several hundred families – and hundreds of children – have been staying in the facility for years.
After her news conference Monday, a couple of homeless people at the shelter implored Bowser to do more to help people like them.
Among her nominations today, Bowser tapped Laura Zeilinger as director of Human Services, the agency that oversees homeless policies and other social welfare programs for low-income and no-income families.
Zeilinger has been executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. She previously had been deputy director of the human services department that she now will head.
Other nominees included Clinton Lacey, who will serve as director of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, and LaQuandra Nesbitt, as director of the Department of Health.