The city’s two-pronged approach to finding spaces to replace the troubled D.C. General family homeless shelter is now down to a single prong.
The administration of then-Mayor Vince Gray released a plan in October to shut down D.C. General, a former hospital on the western bank of the Anacostia River that has housed homeless families far longer than intended. Under the plan, the Department of General Services would pursue two routes to locate up to six smaller shelters to replace D.C. General. The agency would comb through its inventory of vacant properties for facilities that could be easily converted into shelter, and at the same time it would solicit private property owners who might be willing to convert their buildings into shelter and lease them to the city.
Less than four months later, the city has already given up on one of those routes.
In its written responses to inquiries from the D.C. Council as part of an oversight hearing yesterday, the office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services stated that the search for city-owned properties to use as shelter is “no longer being pursued.”
“We don’t have any properties in the inventory that fit that need,” says DGS spokesman Kenneth Diggs. “Typically it’s because of cost.”
The city has a number of vacant buildings, primarily schools, but converting them into shelter can be complicated and costly, due to the need to add facilities like bathrooms to each room.
According to Diggs, responses have begun to come in from private property owners regarding buildings that the city can lease for shelter. The city is seeking six shelters of 40 to 50 units each, or failing that, a mix of shelters of that size with larger ones containing 60 to 100 units.
The city’s initial plan aimed to close D.C. General as early as this fall. Now, the deputy mayor’s office says it’s shooting for closure sometime next year.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery