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Nearly every one of the seven homeless shelters scheduled to open in D.C. over the next two-and-a-half years are “behind schedule,” per an internal summary of their progress sent in an email from an Office of the Budget Director staffer to At-Large Councilmember David Grosso, obtained by City Paper. The information contained in the email is current as of February 14, 2018; Grosso’s office received it in early March.
Budget Director Jennifer Budoff emphasized to City Paper that the characterizations of each site’s progress in the email were not vetted by her, and do not reflect the position of the office.
District officials are preparing to shut down D.C. General, a former hospital that has since become the city’s largest homeless shelter, this fall. The city plans to raze the behemoth campus, which sits on valuable land in Hill East, and move residents into one smaller shelter in each ward. The city has faced harsh criticism for what some have claimed is a transparent attempt to offer the land up to Amazon for its East Coast headquarters, ignoring the associated consequences for homeless families.
The Department of Human Services has said it will stop placing new families in D.C. General next month, and begin demolition this fall. Grosso told City Paper last week that he fears “that because [the city] made a promise to close D.C. General by a certain time, we might not be acting in the most thoughtful way we can.”
OBD’s internal communication indicates that the city has not met its own spending goals on six out of seven replacement shelters. (An eighth shelter, in Ward 2, is the only one currently functioning.) Sites in Wards 4, 7, and 8 are supposed to open by the end of 2018, but only one, in Ward 8, was described in the communication as “on track.” The other two are “behind schedule,” per the OBD staffer.
If the assessments are accurate, it appears that the only new shelter likely to open by the time D.C. General closes this year is the Ward 8 site, which will have 50 units. D.C. General houses about 700 people on any given night.
In Ward 4, “the plan was to spend $19.15 million by the end of [fiscal year] 18. As of February 14th, they had $6.63 million in unspent, unencumbered funds (34.6% of the project’s total),” the email says. “They were supposed to spend $6.15 million in FY18 alone. Since we are almost half way through FY18, we might expect to see that they had spent about half of their FY18 budget authority. Instead what we see is that there is some left over money from FY17 and none of their FY18 budget has been spent or encumbered.”
Updated data Budoff sent to City Paper shows that spending on that project has not changed since the February 14 email. Current data for each site, provided by Budoff, is presented below.
Ward 7’s shelter is in a similar state as Ward 4’s. The city was “supposed to spend $4.85 million in FY18,” but “$4.46 million has not been spent or encumbered. This means that there are no contracts in place for 31.5% of the total project’s allotment of $14.85 million.” Current data shows that the project has an allotment balance of $4.68 million.
Each of the three shelters scheduled to open in the summer of 2019, which are in Wards 3, 5, and 6, are “behind schedule,” per the email. Current data shows about one-third of the funds D.C. officials earmarked to spend on the shelters in Wards 3 and 5 in fiscal year 2018 have not “been spent or encumbered,” while the same is true for about one-fifth of the funds D.C. intended to spend on Ward 6’s shelter in fiscal year 2018.
Residents of Wards 3 and 5 have filed zoning appeals to the respective shelters in their neighborhoods.
The parcel at 2500 14th St NW, the site of Ward 1’s shelter, also has “a significant allotment balance,” the email said. It was only recently chosen as Ward 1’s site and is not scheduled to open until the summer of 2020.
In Ward 8, which the unnamed OBD staffer called “on track,” only one percent of its funds haven’t yet been spent or earmarked, according to the updated data.
All told, the D.C. General replacement shelters are supposed to hold 311 units and will cost about $116 million. Ward 2’s replacement site, the Patricia Handy Place for Women, has been open since 2016.
Greer Johnson Gillis, Director of the Department of General Services, provided the following statement to City Paper in an email on Thursday: “The short-term family housing programs are more than just new buildings – they are safe and dignified places for our families to get support when they need it most. That is what is motivating us to ensure the programs open on time. As DGS is responsible for building the new units, I can confirm that construction for all projects is on schedule, including the programs in Wards 4, 7, and 8. Nothing will delay or inhibit our commitment to close DC General.”
Click on the image below to review the current data Budoff provided.