DC, National Park Service conduct encampment clearings in Foggy Bottom ahead of May closure 

Officials in dark clothing throw away trash near tents in a park.

D.C. employees throw away trash at the Triangle Park encampment. Photo by Margaret Hartigan

The National Park Service (NPS) will temporarily close the park area around the San Martin Memorial in Foggy Bottom on May 15, displacing part of a 28-tent encampment, according to signs posted in the area.

On Feb. 14, D.C. and NPS jointly conducted an “engagement” of the encampment ahead of the closure, cleaning the area but leaving all but three unoccupied tents intact. Encampment residents said they were aware of an upcoming full closure, but did not yet have plans for where to move in May. After NPS closed McPherson Square a year ago, many people relocated to the Foggy Bottom area, which now is home to some of the city’s largest encampments.

According to the signs posted, NPS will close the portion of the encampment located on federal land so the area can be renovated for landscaping and turf restoration in advance of a celebration of the 250th anniversary of United States independence in 2026. A representative for NPS’s National Mall and Memorial Parks division said NPS notified the city about the closure in October. 

The city also closed two smaller encampments in February — a one-person encampment in NoMa and in Foggy Bottom.

Among the residents present during the Feb. 14 clean-up of the area around the San Martin Memorial was Lucy, a former resident of the McPherson Square encampment. She said she was glad government officials had come by to clean. (Lucy, like all encampment residents quoted in this story, only gave her first name to protect her privacy while living outside.) 

“They’ve gotta do it,” she said, adding that it frustrates her that some of her neighbors do not clean up as often as she thinks they should.“I pick up trash every day,” she said. 

Lucy said proper disposal of trash and food waste is particularly important in D.C., a city with a notorious rat problem. (D.C. Health received thousands of calls about rat infestations last year.) Lucy said she enjoys giving nearby birds and squirrels leftover food, but she makes sure to give it to them in an area away from the encampment to prevent infestations.

“If they’re satisfied, you’re satisfied,” Lucy said as she emptied a jar of leftovers for a flock of birds.

Another resident, David, has lived in the encampment for six months, moving there shortly after hitchhiking from Kansas City. He said that he was “excited” for the clean-up, and gave two thumbs up. Like Lucy, he said he also values keeping the park clean and rat-free.

Tad moved to the Foggy Bottom encampment a little more than a month ago, after his belongings were stolen at the place he was previously staying. He spoke positively about the officials there cleaning. “They’re pretty good, respectful,” he said. 

Tad added that the park had gotten messy and that there hadn’t been any cleaning since he moved there. “It’s about time,” Tad said. 

DC encampment updates 

The next day, Feb. 15, D.C. officials scheduled a “full clean-up” at a five-tent encampment in Foggy Bottom. A resident of that encampment, Nathaniel, who said he has been homeless “since before Reagan got shot” in 1981, said that he had been unaware that there was a cleaning scheduled.

“They’ve tried to clear this area many times before. They know me so they usually don’t touch my stuff,” Nathaniel, who stores his belongings in grocery carts, said in advance of the planned clean-up. Nathaniel said he usually moves between that encampment in Foggy Bottom and another encampment in Georgetown.

On Feb. 21, D.C. officials closed an encampment in NoMa, on the playground outside the Choice Academy at Emery, a public high school. Eddy, a now-former resident of this encampment, was notified of the closure the week prior and moved his belongings into his friend’s car the morning of the closure. Eddy said he and his friend planned to drive around the city in search of another place for him to set up camp.

Eddy, who is from Virginia, said he had been living at a shelter and working often — a morning shift at a grocery store and an evening shift at a convention center — when shelter officials gave away his bed after he had been missing for three days. After a series of misfortunes, including having his car’s catalytic converter and his phone stolen, Eddy ended up sleeping outside.

“How could they do that?” Eddy asked rhetorically. “I was working towards goals.”

D.C. was scheduled to fully close another encampment in Foggy Bottom on Feb. 28, after publication.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect D.C. is closing part, not all, of the encampment.

Issues |Encampments

Region |Foggy Bottom|Washington DC

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