Mayor Releases Plan to Close DC General Shelter

On Oct. 14, Mayor Gray released a plan to close the temporary Emergency Family Homeless Shelter at DC General. The plan calls for replacing the units in the dilapidated, deteriorating old hospital building with 5-10 smaller scale shelters across the city. If new sites are identified and appropriate investments are made, DC General could be closed for good in the fall of 2015.

While the plan is certainly a step in the right direction (and something my ANC 6B colleagues and I have been asking for since 2011), I am concerned about some of the plan’s details (or lack thereof) including:

  • Location of new shelters – the plan is vague on where the 5-10 smaller scale shelters would be located. I was hopeful that the Administration would identify at least one or two locations.
  • No closing date identified – while the plan notes that the shelter could be closed for good in 2015, the Gray Administration avoids selecting a specific date for closure. Without a date, I’m concerned that the Mayor and Council will not make the investments necessary to see the plan implemented.
  • Open-ended Solicitation for Offers – the plan notes that the DC Department of General Services has issued a SFO seeking privately owned facilities that could be used as shelters. But there is no deadline on the SFO, which means that there is no time pressure for developers/owners to respond to the SFO. If the city wants to close DC General by fall of 2015 and wants to consider multiple responses, shouldn’t there be an end of year deadline on the SFO?
  • Recent increase in families being housed at DC General – If the goal is to reduce the number of families living at DC General, than the city’s recent decision to move more families into the shelter is perplexing at best. And with no funding in the FY15 budget to house families in hotel rooms, the city will have no choice but to continue operating DC General at capacity this winter.

Despite these concerns, Mayor Gray deserves credit for developing a plan to close DC General. Now it is time for the Mayor and Council to step up, identify shelter sites and fund the plan so it becomes a reality. I will certainly continue to push the city to close DC General and find better, more humane housing options for our homeless families.

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