The Bowser administration today announced the proposed locations of eight facilities—one in each ward—that will replace the D.C. General family shelter.
D.C. General is currently home to 260 families, including around 400 children. The old hospital facility is located near the Hill East neighborhood in a complex of buildings that includes the D.C. Jail and a methadone clinic. It became a shelter for families under the Fenty administration and has continued in that fashion as the family homelessness crisis in D.C. has exploded (the number of homeless families has increased by 40 percent since 2010). Its many problems were thrust into the spotlight in 2014 after the disappearance of Relisha Rudd, an eight-year-old girl who was living at the shelter with her mother and brothers. Rudd was kidnapped by a shelter janitor, police say, and has not been seen since March 1 of that year.
Hundreds of additional homeless families are living in motels in D.C. and Maryland.
Calls to close the shelter began almost as soon as it opened. In October 2014, the Gray administration released a plan to close D.C. General and replace it with a series of smaller shelters. When Muriel Bowser became mayor the following January, she named Laura Zeilinger director of the Department of Human Services. Under Zeilinger, DHS has instituted year-round access to shelter for families and has increased the placements into housing.
“Every neighborhood… has a stake in this,” Zeilinger said Tuesday when announcing the shelter-replacement plan.
The Bowser administration asked the D.C. Council for leeway on shelter placement eligibility and on design specifications for the new shelters. Officials and advocates in particular battled over whether each unit should have a private bathroom. In the end, the D.C. Council sided with the Bowser, agreeing to a plan that will put a mix of private and communal bathrooms in each facility.
The Bowser administration will hold meetings about the proposed facilities in each ward this Thursday.
This post will be updated.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery