A new shelter is opening in an affluent DC neighborhood. Some residents are debating whether it’s the right move. 

This future site of a new shelter is the topic of a heated debate. Photo by Jessica Rich

The Aston, an old George Washington University dorm, is up for sale, and the D.C. Department of Human Services (DHS) plans to use it to create a new non-congregate shelter for populations unable to be served in other D.C. shelters. The area’s advisory neighborhood commission passed a resolution in favor of turning the building into a shelter last month.

The facility will, at capacity, house 190 people in 100 units, and aims to open this fall. The shelter will aim to get residents into more permanent housing within three to five months of residing there, and is part of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s stated plans to completely eliminate homelessness in Washington, D.C. through a housing-first method.

Rachel Pierre, interim director of DHS, says that with the end of Pandemic Emergency Program for Medically Vulnerable Individuals (PEP-V) programming, the shelter will allow for improved service delivery by DHS. DHS hopes to use recently released American Rescue Plan funds, and leverage them for future sites as well.

Area residents have mixed reactions to this news.

At a local gathering to discuss the initiative, Reginald Black, a longtime D.C. resident and activist who has also experienced homelessness said supporting this program will go “a long way to saying that the District wants to you know, end homelessness.”

Ward 2A Commissioner Yannik Omictin has highlighted that Ward 2 is connected to many important resources. It is within one mile of six different types of grocery stores, and convenient to the Metro.

Other residents, however, have raised opposing concerns about the site being inaccessible to unhoused people, who might fi nd themselves in a “resource desert.”

“Many of my constituents have reached out to me with concerns about the citizens. About them moving into such an affl uent place where you have three Michelin star restaurants,” Ward 2A Commissioner Joel Causey said.

To address concerns, DHS announced it will provide 24/7 security for the shelter. It will also organize a community advisory team for this project which will be made up of government and community representatives to listen to concerns from people living in the area. 

Issues |Shelters

Region |Washington DC

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