Franklin School Shelter Remains Empty After Controversial Closing
Eric Sheptock was passionate and spirited as he told of the events that unfolded surrounding the closing of the Franklin School Shelter in 2008. Sheptock, a homeless advocate, stood among the protesters when the city planned to shut down the Franklin School Shelter in 2006 and again in 2008. Sheptock’s voice was booming as he talked about what happened to the former school turned-shelter.
He lived at the Franklin School Shelters before it was finally closed in the fall of 2008 by former D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty. The men who were living at the school were then relocated to other shelters or permanent housing.
In the weeks leading up to the closing, the 300 beds were dismantled a few at a time. Sheptock said that on the night of Sept. 26, he and the rest of the 50 men who remained at the shelter were awakened and their beds were then dismantled. Then the windows were shuttered; the doors were locked; the Franklin School Shelter had been shut down.
“Fenty shut down the Franklin Shelter, the only downtown homeless refuge. He also had to back away from his ambitious Housing First program— which promised to put the homeless in permanent housing — because of a budget crunch,” Sheptock said in an interview with the DC Examiner.
The school, located on the corner of 13 and K streets NW, is where Alexander Graham Bell sent his first wireless call in 1880 using the photophone, but like many old buildings, there were many safety concerns. The roof was caving in, and officials said that the school was unfit to live in and needed to be shut down.
Due to historic preservation requirements and needed repairs, the redevelopment of the property is expected to cost between $20 million and $30 million. Franklin School is located at the heart of the city’s business district and is considered prime real estate. But it is also public property and some suggest it should be used for a community purpose, such as a shelter or a library. Last November, an Occupy McPherson subgroup broke into the school and attempted to occupy it to bring attention to the issue. Police arrested the D.C. Occupiers as they were trying to take over the school.
One developer’s plan to refurbish the building as a boutique hotel fell through several years ago. But bidding was recently reopened to developers. Jose Sousa a spokesman for the city Office of the Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development, said that there are currently no plans to turn the school back into a shelter. He told that since bidding was reopened, no offers have been made.