Thursday, February 11, 2016
Those were the words of DC City Administrator Rashad M. Young at the New Canaan Baptist Church in Northeast in response to a passionate Ward 5 resident. The City Administrator hosted a meeting to invite comments from Ward 5 residents in response to a prospective homeless shelter that\’s part of the Mayor\’s \”Ending Homelessness in the District\” initiative. Mr. Young\’s contention is that \”no, not in my neighborhood\” will be the prevailing sentiment at similar meetings being held around the city. The Mayor\’s plan is designed to close DC General and address the more than 7,000 men, women, and families with children that go homeless each day by spreading shelters throughout the Districts\’ eight wards. The facility for Ward 5 is slated for 2266 25th Place, N.E. Therein lies the problem.
This site is already littered with warehouses, bus lots, a waste management plant, a nightclub, a strip club, and bounded by a set of working railroad tracks. When Ward 5 residents speak of feeling like a \”dumping ground\” it usually centers on this stretch of commercial property which seems to attract every blight no one else wants in their part of the city. Nearly 200 residents, Ward 5 ANC Commissioners, and Council member McDuffie (Ward 5) were there to voice support for the mayor\’s initiative, but to challenge the location that has been selected. Councilman McDuffie took the microphone briefly to reemphasize his support for the mayor’s plan but supports the concerns form his constituents putting a homeless facility in an area that already attracting crime.
Mr. Young withstood a barrage of questions ranging from questioning the wisdom of placing yet another shelter in close proximity to the Days Inn and Quality Inn, that reportedly are already serving as homeless shelters. Residents also questioned the wisdom of placing yet another shelter in an area with high unemployment and in need of its own services. It was reported that Ward 5 already shelters nearly 50% of the homeless in DC. Council member Anita Bonds (At-Large) stepped in to encourage the residents to embrace the plan. Here comments were met with skepticism as she stated that amidst comments that other Wards might not be taking their share of his problem, that Ward 2\’s fourteen shelters dwarfs the 5 or 6 in Ward 5. However, when challenged on the gross number of homeless residents in those shelters, there was no clear answer provided by the Councilwoman.
One resident asked the Administrator to let the Mayor know that the residents of Ward 5 will be watching at election time to ensure that the promises to spread this problem among all of the city\’s 8 wards and not wind up with the short straw. This drew an applause of agreement from the crowd.
The meeting went along this vein for nearly two hours when the Mayor herself arrived to speak to the audience. It\’s not clear whether this was a planned stop for the mayor or she had been called to come provide support for her city administrator but she appeared to come prepared to enjoin the audience that this has been her plan since taking office and she intends to make it happen.
If this is indeed the first round before this issue comes to closure, as stated by Mr. Young, I think the mayor\’s office better be prepared to go the full 15 rounds.