Crews clear McPherson Square homeless encampment
WASHINGTON - The National Park Service began working to clear the homeless encampment at northwest D.C.'s McPherson Square Wednesday.
"McPherson Square was closed this morning because of very serious concerns about growing threats to life, health, and safety," said NPS spokesman Mike Litterst in a statement.
Litterst said NPS had originally intended to close the park in April of this year, but the city requested it be shut down earlier, "out of concern for health and safety and given that the growth of the encampment was impeding effective social service engagement."
NPS provided more than two weeks notice to those staying in the park, Litterst said, and social service providers worked to help connect people with housing and other services.
Litterst said the D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, and service providers were at the park Wednesday morning. Anyone remaining will be advised to leave and trained crews will begin cleaning the park and removing any hazards, he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of D.C., which is located in building that borders McPherson Square, condemned the move.
Organizing Director Maxine Davis released the following statement:
"Evictions never solve homelessness and always traumatize residents who simply need a place to live. By scattering our neighbors from a single location, evictions also make it much more difficult to connect people with the safe housing and dependable services they need. Evicting our neighbors at the height of hypothermia season with very little notice is an especially cruel decision.
The forced evictions that the Mayor and NPS have carried out in the past have pushed people from park to park, destroying their belongings, and disrupting their remaining support networks. By using police officers to assist with and enforce these evictions, the Mayor and NPS have put our neighbors at risk of arrest and harassment simply for trying to survive.
The long-term solution to homelessness is safe and dependable housing, not forced evictions with no plan."
Full National Park Service Statement on McPherson Square from NPS spokesman Mike Litterst:
"McPherson Square was closed this morning because of very serious concerns about growing threats to life, health, and safety.
The DC Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services (DMHHS) and its service providers’ request to close the encampment at McPherson Square began a deliberative, thoughtful process. Since October, when the people staying in McPherson Square were first notified of the intent to close the park in April, DMHHS and its service providers have coordinated social services engagement for unsheltered individuals in the park. The District requested that the National Park Service (NPS) close the encampment earlier out of concern for health and safety and given that the growth of the encampment was impeding effective social service engagement. The NPS provided more than two weeks’ notice of the change to those staying in the park, and the District’s social service providers intensified their efforts to connect people with housing and other services.
In addition to working closely with the District and its service providers, the NPS coordinated with the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), which includes the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Veterans Affairs and other pertinent federal agencies. The NPS and other federal agencies also met with the National Coalition for Housing Justice to discuss the compassionate-focused plan for closure.
This morning, DMHHS and service providers are again on-site to assist unsheltered people with housing options. At approximately 10 a.m., anyone remaining in the park will be advised to leave and trained crews will begin cleaning the park and removing any hazards."