When DC City Council member Jim Graham set June 27, 2013, as the date for a hearing to discuss the Federal City Shelter, Eric Sheptock, chairman of SHARC (Shelter Housing and Respectful Change) and a resident of the CCNV shelter said, “It’s the beginning of the conversation.” It is now October; a bill creating the task force on Federal City Shelter has been passed and the first meeting, originally slated for September 24, will take place this month.

Despite the positivity of having the city talk about what it wants to do with a facility that houses some of our city’s most vulnerable residents, a cloud remains overhead: of all of the voting members of the task force, none has experienced homelessness. Advocates across the city have requested numerous times that members of the affected community be allowed to participate fully in the decision-making process. At a recent town hall meeting, Sheptock made the point that before anything is done regarding development of the site, the city has to do something with 1,350 people who depended on it. A few days ago, SHARC decided to try a new strategy, an open letter addressed to the mayor and city council. The letter states that the shelter residents wish to form a partnership between themselves and government to develop a model of housing that will allow them to leave homelessness behind and become more productive citizens.

The letter also says that the DC government’s Task Force on the Federal City Shelter has its focus on the redevelopment of the property. To Sheptock’s dismay, the mayor and council have decided to form a task force that does not give a voice to members of the homeless community. Affected residents want to know if the city government has created other task forces that do not include the interested citizens who seek membership. For example, shelter residents are asking if the mayor or council would keep members of the Greater Washington Board of Trade off a task force created to deal with the business climate in DC. The simple request from the residents of Federal City Shelter is that the local government pay attention to the voices of the real stakeholders in the Federal City Shelter, not simply the developers.