City Paper is not for tourists
On Aug. 24, D.C. will move the last of its families experiencing homelessness out of New York Ave. NE’s Days Inn, ending a years-long reliance on the property as emergency overflow shelter, a spokesperson for the Department of Human Services confirms to City Paper.
As of late July, D.C. also ended its contract with the neighboring Quality Inn, which it used to temporarily house homeless families, as well as the Hotel Arboretum and Howard Johnson sites nearby. Combined, the closures will cap nearly five years of the city’s reliance on motels––which were often unsafe and unclean––to provide shelter for its homeless population.
There are currently 87 families living at the Days Inn, per a spokesperson for DHS, which oversees the homeless services system in D.C. Of those, 14 have already been approved for an apartment through the city’s rapid rehousing program, and after a needs assessment may qualify for more long-term housing subsidies, the spokesperson says.
“The remaining families will be placed in short-term family housing programs or apartment style shelters until connected with permanent housing,” Dora Taylor-Lowe, the DHS spokesperson, says. Those apartment-style shelters include the smaller, newly constructed family shelters whose development Mayor Muriel Bowser spearheaded.
The closures were a long time coming: Senior DHS leaders have been planning their exits from the shelters for at least a year and a half.
Residents of Days Inn and their advocates have long complained about housing conditions and security issues at the shelter. These range from allegations of physical abuse at the hands of security guards who are contracted out to monitor the property, to pervasive pest infestations, mold, and plumbing issues.
But at Days Inn, which, at 170 units, was the largest of the motels D.C. used as shelter, these problems were particularly acute. Families who stayed there often referred to it as “the compound” because of the strict rules imposed on residents by The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, which receives tens of millions of dollars annually from D.C. to manage services at Days Inn and other shelters.
Children living at the Days Inn, for example, aren’t allowed to run in the hallways, eat meals alone, or play outside, according to notices TCP distributed to residents. For this, the D.C. government has historically paid about $3,000 per family per month.
DHS is still leasing rooms at three other hotels across D.C. to provide quarantine space for some unhoused people who showed symptoms of, or were exposed to, COVID-19.