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No one quite knows how to solve the problems that plague the D.C. General family homeless shelter—the
staff abuses, the over-lengthy stays, the scant oversight that led an 8-year-old girl to be abducted earlier this year—but city officials have settled on one ostensible fundamental truth: It’s too big. Advocates for the homeless, of course, might argue the opposite, given that the former hospital has fewer than 300 shelter units, while the city expects nearly three times as many families to need shelter this winter. But the Gray administration devised a plan to solve its core defect, its bigness, without increasing capacity by a single bed. The solution,
unveiled in October, is to replace the troubled shelter with a network of up to six successors, scattered through the city on a mix of publicly and privately owned sites. We still don’t know where they’ll be, or when they’ll open, or how exactly the District will obtain cost-efficient land or leases for them in any but the poorest parts of town, but we can be assured of one thing: They’ll be smaller.