Displaced residents sit on park benches with their belongings and watch as officials "clean-up" Franklin Square.
The U.S. Park Police carried out a "clean-up" of Franklin Square on June 30, 2020 to remove people experiencing homelessness who were staying there. A fence was erected around the park on July 1, 2020. Photo by Ben Burgess

Let’s be honest: Franklin Square Park is just going to be another Smithsonian museum once all the redevelopment is done.

There is no doubt in my mind that this was not done in the interest of the homeless population that used to spend time there.

The purpose of the renovation is to impose restrictions that prevent homeless and people suffering from mental health and addiction problems from being visible in downtown D.C. from having a safe haven where they can congregate and get basic human services from local outreach workers. 

Although the renovation of Franklin Park is highly appreciated and may be well overdue, we need to take into consideration the people who called it home for years. Does the city have any plans for those who were kicked out of Franklin Park due to the renovations?

[Read More: Franklin Park to reopen in August]

This might turn into the Franklin School across from the park, which for many years sheltered homeless men. Unfortunately, it was turned into a museum, after being left vacant for years. Many residents from that shelter decided instead to take shelter in the park, because it was the nearest place of rest they could find.

In many D.C. public institutions, security or police officers can use their own judgement to deny access or service to certain types of people who don’t seem like the right client.

For example, the D.C. Public Library which is funded by taxpayers instituted a new rule on how many bags you can carry into the library. All these restrictions are meant to prevent people going through hardship from accessing certain services because of what they are carrying, or saying, or the way they look. This also goes for the “customers only” policy on using restrooms at certain locations, like restaurants. It only applies to people who don’t look like they should be there.

[Read More: New Library Rules Raise Concerns]

Hopefully Franklin Park will not enforce these same fake rules, because the homeless community will be the one most affected. 

Colly Dennis is an artist and vendor with Street Sense Media.