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On a strip of D.C.-owned land near the Kennedy Center, representatives from several D.C. agencies gathered Friday to disband an encampment that’s served as home to dozens of homeless residents.
Employees from the District Department of Transportation began taping notices of infractions on the tents located near the underpasses around 27th Street and Virginia Avenue NW around 2:30 p.m. Over the course of several hours, some residents of the camp placed their belongings and tents in plastic bins to be stored by the city, while others declared their intention to stay put.
“I’m not going to move,” a man who identified himself as Joe said. “Where do you expect me to live?”
In addition to District crews who cleaned up garbage, representatives from the Department of Human Services and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services were on site to take names and discuss shelter and housing options. Two vehicles from the United Planning Organization were available to take people to shelter.
Deputy Mayor Brenda Donald told reporters the campsite had been deemed “hazardous” and “unsafe.”
“We have been working with everyone not only in the last few days but in the last few months to identify appropriate housing and other accommodations,” Donald said.
Donald added that D.C. Water needed to take control of the site for a construction project; the area will be fenced off this evening, she said. (A spokesman for D.C. Water confirmed the project, but did not have information on when the fence was being erected.)
On Thursday, a day before the camp was disbanded, DHS representatives facilitated apartment visits for a number of people staying there. But other residents at the camp said that, despite being assessed and connected with DHS, they were still waiting to hear about housing.
“We’ve been waiting five months,” said Stephanie Abbott, adding that she and her husband both suffer from disabilities; her husband, John, had his spleen removed in January after a serious car collision, she said Friday.
To be placed in shelter, Stephanie and John would have to stay in separate facilities. “He wouldn’t let me do that anyways, because he’s too scared to let me go to shelter by myself,” said Stephanie, who’s lived outside for nearly three months. “It’s a waiting game.”
A man who identified himself as Earl had been staying by himself in a secluded area near the underpasses. “I ain’t moving,” Earl said. “It’s bullshit.”
“I keep my tent fixed up, I keep it clean,” he added. “They ain’t came to me about no apartment, they ain’t offered me no assistance to move [my tent].”
By 5 p.m., a handful of remaining residents in the main camp area had moved three tents beneath an underpass, hoping it was outside the area where D.C. Water would place its fence. A spokeswoman for the deputy mayor’s office said D.C. Water would begin fencing off the space around 7 p.m. “Our outreach workers will continue to engage those who remain at the site in the coming days.”
Photos by Darrow Montgomery