The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church
credit: Wikimedia

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a one-time grant on Aug. 23 to establish a downtown services center at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1313 New York Ave. NW. The center will be run by the DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID) and partner with city agencies and contractors to provide a variety of services on-site. 

Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., the center is expected to serve at least 100 people experiencing homelessness per day. Clients will have access to meals, computers, showers, and laundry facilities, according to a press release. Additional services such as connection to case management, behavioral health resources, employment support, and housing assessments, will be provided. 

“It will help bridge the gap between the District’s street outreach teams and service providers while providing a safe and welcoming space for people experiencing homelessness,” Christy Repress of Pathways to Housing D.C. was quoted as saying in the press release. 

As Street Sense Media reported in 2015, the District has been piloting a daytime service center at the Adam’s Place shelter location in Northeast. While the services have received positive feedback from clients, its far-flung location has been a barrier to some. Yet the city has struggled find welcoming space in a central downtown location. 

When the D.C. Public Libraries MLK Memorial Library location closed for three years of renovations in 2017, lack of access to the de facto downtown day center put strained other homeless services and similar locations.  

“No excuses, communication could have been done better.” Kathy Harris of the Department of Human Services said at a meeting debriefing the launch of an interim service plan to provide restroom access, locations to take shelter from the elements during the day, computer access and an alternate pick-up and drop-off locations for the city’s shelter shuttle van service. 

”Twenty years ago, the DowntownDC BID operated a Downtown Services Center, which was run by Linda Kaufman but was forced to close when the space was no longer available,” wrote DowntownDC BID President and CEO Neil Albert in an email to stakeholders.  

He was referring to a center run out of First Congregational Church at 945 G St. NW, known then as “The 9:30 Club” by many homeless patrons. The location started as a soup kitchen, relocated from Shaw,  which offered daily meals and showed movies during the day. Eventually the BID co-located a Downtown Service Center there to serve the 300-400 existing clientele, providing showers, laundry and connection to nonprofit providers, according to the DowntownDC BID website. 

The center closed in 2007 when First Congregational redeveloped it’s building. Amid reported pressure from area businesses at the time to disperse the homeless community that would gather there, space for the program was not included in the new building and the BID shifted its focus to outreach programs. 

The New York Ave. service center will open before the 2018-19 Hypothermia season begins on Nov. 1. 

Funding options for the center once the grant monies are exhausted are unclear.