WASHINGTON - D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser took heat from residents to build eight new homeless shelters around the city as part of her plan to shut down D.C. General, the city’s largest homeless shelter, by 2018.
The community meeting was held Wednesday night in Ward 3 at Forest Hills of DC, a senior citizen living community.
Bowser fielded questions from residents at the meeting about her plan. Many residents are upset with the mayor’s site choices because they believe it will drive crime up in their neighborhood and lower their property prices.
They also said that the property where the planned shelter on Wisconsin Avenue nearby Glover Park will go was actually zoned for two single family homes.
Some residents who attended the meeting are upset at the mayor’s decision because they believe it was made under the table. The mayor refused to say which sites she ruled out for the new shelters and why she picked the sites she did.
Jennifer Speight has been living at D.C. General for about a year and she said she has been attending these public meetings that have been happening on a weekly basis throughout the wards in the city.
She told FOX 5 she wants people to understand what conditions families like herself and her children are living in. She also said she understands concerns of the residents in this neighborhood, but she wants everyone to see the other side of this debate.
“The property [D.C. General] is next to the Department of Corrections, it's next to a jail, it's next to a psychiatric drug treatment program, which is an inpatient program,” she said. “It's next to an offenders program where they actually do a halfway house where they actually live on the premises inside the building for however many days – 30 days, 60 days – and then are released. There are a lot of programs around the shelter that don't affect the residents inside the shelter because they are not part of those programs. But it's something we see on a daily basis.”
“We were not consulted,” said Paul Cunningham, who opposes the homeless shelter. “There was no serious effort that we can see at least that they were willing to tell us about. There is a lot of secrecy about this. There was no effort to clarify what the real process was. And it all looks weird frankly because they are paying such a high price. They could buy my house for half as much per square foot or less.”
There will be a total of eight facilities – one in each ward of the city. Mayor Bowser said these shelters will be modern and safe and it will cost about $22 million to operate. That is about $5 million more than it costs to operate D.C. General.