WASHINGTON - Mayor Muriel Bowser broke ground Thursday morning on the first in a series of smaller neighborhood shelters that are planned for all eight wards of the city.
The ceremonial groundbreaking took place in the pouring rain outside an abandoned doctor’s office building near Kennedy Street in Petworth.
The building, which is part of Bowser’s five-year plan to prevent and end homelessness in the nation's capital, will become a temporary housing facility for homeless families.
"I think that these are tears of joy falling from the sky," Bowser said. "And I knew we've shed a lot of tears getting to this moment and we're just very happy to say that this is the start of something special.”
The mayor grew emotional when speaking about the fate of Relisha Rudd, the 8-year-old homeless girl who disappeared with a shelter janitor and was presumed murdered three years ago while living with her family at the old District of Columbia General Hospital.
Bowser has vowed to ultimately close the city's makeshift homeless shelter.
"I have to say that we have received incredible support from our neighbors and that we are committed to ensuring that this project is an asset to the community,” Bowser said.
Bowser said that homelessness was down 10 percent in the city over the past year. The new, smaller, short term facilities are part of a $100 million a year program to provide quality transitions to permanent housing for the city's homeless families.