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On Monday night, Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells thought he’d check out the situation down at the homeless shelters the city’s set up on the St. Elizabeths campus, which are hosting many of the residents once served by the now-shuttered Franklin Shelter downtown. So, like the men who patronize the facility, the chair of the council’s human services committee decided to take one of the two shuttle buses from downtown to St. E’s.
Wells caught a bus around 7 p.m., but a few minutes later, the driver sideswiped a minivan at Pennsylvania Avenue and 9th Street NW. Wells calls it a “minor fender-bender.”
That led to an agonizing delay for the men, who were missing their dinnertime, as cops were forced to take information and statements from each, since they were witnesses to an accident involving a government vehicle. Then there was an additional complication: The driver of the bus didn’t have his license on him, so cops wouldn’t let him drive away. Eventually, another driver was found.
What did Wells find once he got there? Not a lot in the way of serious complaints, he says. Residents there are a little stir-crazy, seeing as they used to be able to check in for a bed at Franklin early in the evening, then leave and come back at night to sleep. At St. E’s, Wells says, “there’s nothing but woods and big buildings out there. It’s just more interesting to be downtown.”
Another complaint: Dinner’s been the same thing night after night. The residents don’t like that much. And sometimes, because of security issues, the city leaves the men standing in the rain if they arrive early, before the shelter’s official 7 p.m. opening.
But in general, Wells says, residents find the shelter clean and safe.
Eric Sheptock, a homeless advocate who’s been leading the charge to keep Franklin open, wrote in a mass e-mail that he was mystified by the lack of complaints “I’m left to wonder whether or not everyone knew who [Wells & Co.] were,” he wrote. “Then again, people might’ve just lost faith in their local government. Or it may be that, with his arrival having been unannounced, people just didn’t have their thoughts together.”