Task Force Tackles Future Plan for Shelter

Photo displays CCNV building

Photo by Street Sense

The historic Federal City shelter needs to be transformed into something that homeless people and advocates alike can be proud of, including well-maintained permanent low income housing, said Cher­yl K. Barnes of the Interagency Council on Homelessness.

“Homeless people go through a lot of crap,” Barnes said in a meeting at City Hall on Oct 8. “But it doesn’t have to con­tinue if we all see the same vision.”

This meeting marks the beginning of deliberations by a city task force, special­ly appointed to help chart the future for the sprawling facility before the 2016 ex­piration of a federal requirement than the building be used for homeless services.

The group is expected to send its rec­ommendations for the shelter to the mayor in six months. The shelter, which houses 1350 people on any given night, is often known simply as CCNV, the initials of the Community for Creative Non-Violence, an anti-war and anti-poverty group that turned the former federal college building into a shelter in the late 1980s.

Barnes shares a vision with many others that homelessness will be ended in her life­time. She was formerly homeless and spent three years at the shelter when CCNV’s charismatic leader, the late Mitch Snyder was still alive and helping to run the pro­gram there. The homeless advocates said they are aware of the development pres­sures on the property, located on prime real estate not far from Union Station.

“Nobody wants a shelter in their neigh­borhood. There are two sides to the sto­ry,” said Shacona Ward, a resident of the CCNV shelter.

Both sides of the story are represented in the task force which includes leaders of organizations such as the Department of Behavioral Health, Miriam’s Kitchen, Down­townDC Business Improvement District and Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless.

The interests of the shelter’s neigh­bors should not be the highest priority, said Eric Sheptock of Shelter Housing And Respectful Change. Some individuals give the entire homeless population a bad name. Moving them to another part of the city will not solve the problem, he said.

Ward agreed that not all homeless peo­ple are alike. “There are people who are mentally ill, and are homeless, take their meds and don’t act crazy.”

The task force does not accurately repre­sent the homeless community because few of its voting members have actually experi­enced homelessness, said Reginald Black, a Street Sense vendor and homeless advocate.

The task force’s mission represents a combination of hopefulness and discon­tent. The dichotomy was apparent to meeting attendee Amna Abdelgader, a Uni­versity of Maryland student and friend of Sheptock’s. The sense of urgency to help the homeless was detectably different for those representing the neighborhood and those representing the homeless.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for do­ing something creative and meaningful in terms of quality homeless services,” said City Councilman Jim Graham.

Barnes, Sheptock, Black and many others share in Graham’s hopes for the future of the shelter. But their great challenge will be to come to a consensus within six months on what must be done to the shelter.

The task force must determine how to house 1350 people while the shelter is be­ing repaired or remodeled.

“Any plan to house less than 1350 peo­ple is a conversation stopper,” Sheptock said.

The next meeting will be held at the CCNV allowing shelter residents to easily attend the meeting and give comments at the end. It will cover all the legal implica­tions of making any changes to the shelter, on a date to be determined, Graham said.

Issues |Shelters

Region |Washington DC

information about New Signature, a Washington DC tech solutions and consulting firm


email updates

We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.