The proposed Ward 5 location.
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The Fair Budget Coalition (FBC) recently released an open letter to Mayor Bowser and her administration. The open letter asks Bowser to reconsider the location for one of the DC General replacement shelters. Earlier this year, Bowser presented her plan to close down the infamously unsafe family shelter and replace it with smaller, service-rich locations, distributed throughout all 8 Wards.

While most District residents and policymakers commend the proposal, there is some concern regarding several of the 7 locations. The Ward 5 site, located at 2266 25th Place, NE, has been identified by a number of community members as unsuitable for families, whether they’re experiencing homelessness or not. These sources, including the FBC, cite several risk factors near the proposed site. The plot is located in an isolated industrial zone; does not offer easy access to public transportation or grocery stores; is within walking distance of a strip club and several nightclubs; and could potentially expose future residents to unsafe air quality, (due to its proximity to a large bus depot). The FBC letter asks Mayor Bowser to reexamine this location and to consider moving the shelter somewhere more suitable.

The FBC currently represents more than 60 organizations throughout the District. Advocacy Coordinator Monica Kamen has been following Bowser’s plan since its inception. “We’ve been looking at this plan since the fall,” Kamen said. “We’re very supportive of the plan to close DC General, and we want to find the best way to achieve that goal.”

When the proposed shelter sites were released and more information became available about their surrounding areas, it became clear to the FBC that they could not support the Ward 5 site, according to Kamen. They now hope that the city will vote to maintain the DC General closure plan, while agreeing to amend the Ward 5 site. The FBC’s issue with the other seven sites is that they could be made more cost-effective in the long run, if moved to properties D.C. already owns.

As this process of closing DC General and opening new shelters continues, Kamen hopes that the city will keep talking about the issues involved, especially those that will affect the new shelters’ future residents. “The conversations we’ve been having have revolved around the neighbors, not the people who will live [in the new shelters],” Kamen said. “That needs to be the main thing that we’re focusing on.”