Foggy Bottom residents press Mayor Bowser to tighten restrictions on homeless encampments

Mayor Muriel Bowser. Photo Nick Shedd.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser wore a Washington Nationals scarf to celebrate the team’s first World Series appearance as she fielded questions at the October meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A, held on Oct. 16 at West End Library. She faced complaints from two Foggy Bottom residents about the impact of homeless people and encampments on their safety and quality of life. Bowser denied that the presence of encampments in the city is driven by a lack of places for people experiencing homelessness to stay.  

“We have a shelter bed for each person that you see … but for a number of reasons they don’t come in,” Bowser said.  

One resident urged the mayor to authorize the Metropolitan Police Department to ask homeless people to move their encampments 100 yards away from any residential building. The other suggested that Miriam’s Kitchen outreach and food distribution operations to homeless people in the neighborhood are “just encouraging people” to move in and camp. 

“It is against the law to camp[, but] it is not against the law to be homeless,” Bowser said. She then accused advocates for the homeless community and pro bono attorneys for violating the spirit of the city’s encampment clearing protocol by encouraging residents not to leave — or simply to leave and immediately return — when warned of impending clean-up operations. Encampments, Bowser said, are “detrimental to quality of life for everyone” and, with millions of dollars investment in new shelters, “we have an alternative for people living on the street.” 

The District is nearing completion of the seven new family shelters designed to replace the D.C. General family shelter, which was shuttered in November 2018. A comparable redevelopment of shelters for individuals is part of the city’s strategic plan to end homelessness, with groundbreaking for the new 801 East men’s shelter expected before the end of this year. 

Other topics covered at the meeting included the state of overcrowding at School Without Walls at Francis Stevens, Mayor Bowser’s plans for eventual curbside pickup of food waste, disruption caused by a possible illegal hoteling operation, and wages and employee rights for restaurant workers. 

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Issues |Encampments|Living Unsheltered

Region |Northwest|Ward 2|Washington DC

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