In the ongoing conversation of the federal city shelter, it is clear that the people living in the facility need to have a say in their own future. The Creative Community for Non-Violence (CCNV) shelter task force, convened by councilmember Jim Graham, is giving advocates and others concerned about the issue a new way of accomplishing just that.

At the Oct. 31 meeting of the task force, councilman Graham appointed ex officio members to a sub-committee to gather community input to consider, along with recommendations to the city council and the mayor. The sub-committee decided to hold listening sessions to give an opportunity for the residents of federal city shelter a chance to have their voices heard. The committee has also put forth a survey to gather the community’s feeling on the issue: which ranges from empowerment to raw neglect. The latest of these listening sessions took place in the drop-in center of CCNV on Thursday, Feb. 20th. In October, it was found that the district government currently controls the building the shelter is located in, but the arts and education center and parking lots belong to the CCNV non-profit organization. A goal for advocates like Eric Sheptock is for his fellow residents to have a say-so in the process. We have people here who want to hear what you think about the future of this building.

For years, CCNV has dealt with many problems. Some of its residents, like Ginny Rene Barns, feel CCNV is a horrible place for the homeless. “It‘s almost like a prison,” she said. Barnes also said that she feels like she doesn’t get any sleep and CCNV is not a safe place to be. Meanwhile, Paul Lee Taylor, financial director of the People for Fairness coalition, said that, “if the CCNV program was run like it says on the website, things would be fine. But it’s not,” he said. Taylor also pointed out the building is a mess, saying if this building was run correctly, it wouldn’t matter where it was located. Some of the residents feel that where CCNV is currently is a great location, close to transportation and a fitting location to access services in Washington. A suggestion that made a strong stand was that there should be some sort of phasing system integrated into homeless services in order to help clients move from one point to the next. Some like Duane feel that CCNV is a good program, but he is having trouble with staff. Duane said “I shouldn’t have to deal with someone else’s judgement of who I am. I should be about to be who I am.”

Overall, those who live at 425 2nd Street feel that their transportation and medical services will be affected if forced to move. They do support a new shelter and/or possibly temporary housing. What remains to be seen is the strategy of the Taskforce to ensure that all residents at CCNV are served.