Encampment cleanup at 7th and P St NW bus shelter sparks debate over public space

Photo of a garbage truck parked next to a bus shelter that has been converted into a shelter for unhoused residents using blankets.

Truck moves into place for an encampment cleanup. Photo by Sarah Watson

When tweets went back and forth about an encampment at the 7th and P St NW Metrobus stop, community members joined the growing debate about who has a right to public spaces. A cleanup of the area followed, with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services (DMHHS) coordinating a full cleanup of an encampment near the intersection on July 22nd.

A tent was located inside the Shaw bus shelter, with blankets partitioning it into a private sleeping area. In a nearby empty lot, more belongings and office chairs were stored underneath a tarp. The site was around the corner from a local porta-potty. 

The cleanup took place at 10 a.m., as scheduled, but the Department of Human Services (DHS) and city workers arrived at the site at 8:30. One resident was present and identified items for trash before leaving the area.

The encampment cleanup followed tweets complaining that the 7th and P St NW bus stop encampment prevented travelers from sitting under the bus shelter. In a June 10 post, one twitter user criticized the encampment for taking over the bus shelter while others defended the use of public space by people experiencing homelessness.

[Read More: Dupont encampment cleanup changed to trash-only after criticism]

This is disgusting and dangerous. Demand homes and services, not complaint based policing!,” Remora House D.C., a mutual aid collective that gathers supplies for people experiencing homelessness, wrote in a reply to the original tweet. 

According to a DMHHS spokesperson, the bus stop encampment was removed because the resident was completely blocking public use of the stop. “After many engagement attempts to try to get them to condense or relocate so everyone had access to the bus stop, we had to schedule an engagement cleanup,” the spokesperson wrote. 

Full encampment cleanups resumed this summer after most were downgraded to “trash-only” during the height of the pandemic, to avoid displacing people in line with CDC recommendations

Following the removal of the encampment, DMHHS workers found another site in the neighborhood with belongings stored in shopping carts and trash. But the area was outside of the two signs posted by DHS at the bus shelter and nearby lot — which only announced a cleanup within 200 feet of the notice — so city officials left the site untouched. DMHHS told Street Sense Media there are no plans for another cleanup at this location.

The next encampment cleanup is scheduled for Aug. 5 at the 25th and Virginia Ave NW encampment.

Issues |Community|Encampments

Region |Washington DC

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