Bill to Shape Future of CCNV Gets Hearing
On Oct. 2, city officials and homeless advocates gathered at the John A. Wilson Building for a public hearing on a bill that lays out plans for the future of the historic Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV) shelter.
A city task force was convened last year to help consider redevelopment options for the aging 1350-bed facility located at 425 Second St NW, before the 2016 expiration of a federal requirement that the building be used for homeless services.
After a series of meetings, the task force offered a set of guidelines for future use of the property, officially called the Federal City Shelter.
The task force asserted that the city has an obligation to continue to provide for the needs of homeless men and women who stay at the current shelter. It also stated that any future shelter program should include a variety of housing options, including single room occupancy and supportive housing, as well as emergency and hypothermia beds.
The group also concluded that if the city decides to shutter the existing shelter, it should not be demolished until it is replaced by a new facility or facilities with the same capacity as the current structure.
“We’re committed to the principle of ‘Build First,’” said city council member Jim Graham who helped lead the task force and convened the Oct. 2 roundtable to consider the bill, which mandates that the mayor develop a plan that will comply with the principles set out by the group.
At the hearing, Graham shared some of his feelings about the history of the site. He reflected upon the legendary activist Mitch Snyder and other members of the CCNV who held hunger strikes and demonstrations in order to convince President Ronald Reagan to turn over the building for use as a shelter in the 1980s.
“Mitch Snyder was the movement that compelled all of us,” Graham said.
He said the coming expiration of the federal agreement offers a chance to improve the range of housing and services offered on the site.
The facility houses not only emergency shelter beds, but other programs that help the homeless: Unity Health Care, Clean and Sober Streets, and DC Central Kitchen.
“We have an opportunity to produce affordable workforce housing and shelter services,” said Graham.
A parking lot adjacent to the structure, which is owned by CCNV, could provide a site for future development, officials noted.
Testifying at the hearing, homeless advocate Eric Sheptock, who is also a resident of CCNV and who served as an ex officio member on the taskforce said the he felt the city had not adequately funded efforts to fight homelessness over the years.
“There is no political will to end homelessness,” said Sheptock. “Let’s focus on affordable housing and jobs.”
Another witness, Kate Coventry, policy analyst at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, a District-based think tank, said that among the men and women staying at CCNV, there is a need for improved employment, case management and behavioral health services that should be addressed right away.
“DCFPI recommends that the District explore options to address these service needs immediately, rather than waiting for the redevelopment to be completed,” Coventry testified.
The city’s next mayor and city council will need to vote on this measure, which will determine the shape of the new CCNV.