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Mayor Bowser Prepares for Closure of DC General Shelter

Sunday, January 21, 2018

(Washington, DC) Mayor Bowser has released the plan and timeline to close DC General Family Shelter by the end of 2018, keeping a promise to District residents to close once and for all the outdated shelter. The closing of DC General marks an important step forward in the Bowser Administration’s plan to replace DC General with safe, dignified, service-enriched short-term family housing programs across the District.

Coming into office, I promised we would close DC General and replace it with programs throughout the District that do a better job of supporting our most vulnerable families. We believe that this citywide challenge demands a citywide solution,” said Mayor Bowser. “We know we can and must do better than DC General, and with the new, smaller short-term family housing we will be able to get more of our most vulnerable families connected to the services they need to get back on their feet and into permanent housing.

Each day, DC General houses approximately 250 families who are experiencing homelessness. Experts, community leaders, and current and former residents agree that DC General is too big, too old, and too geographically removed from the services that families experiencing homelessness need to exit shelter and get back on their feet. Under Mayor Bowser’s plan to close DC General, the DC Department of Human Services (DHS) will work over the next year to gradually and safely step-down the use of the hospital as a shelter by exiting families into permanent housing and placing families at other locations operated by the District.

In tandem with DHS’s step-down of services, the DC Department of General Services (DGS) will begin abatement in February 2018 and deconstruction activities in April 2018 at the DC General campus. This month, DGS selected a general contractor for the deconstruction of the vacant Building 9, and activity to prepare the building to be taken down will begin on the DC General campus in February. During deconstruction of Building 9, the main DC General Building and Building 12 will continue to be used as a family shelter without disruption as DHS prepares for closure. Once DC General is vacant and closed as a family shelter this fall, deconstruction on the remaining hospital buildings will commence.

The plan to close DC General includes replacing the shelter with the Patricia Handy Place for Women, a low-barrier shelter for women in Ward 2 that opened in early 2016, and seven short-term family housing programs. Construction is already underway on short-term family housing programs in Wards 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, and Mayor Bowser recently announced and the Council approved a District-owned parcel at 2500 14th Street, NW as the short-term family housing site in Ward 1. Each short-term family housing program will provide safe, clean, and private shelter for up to 50 families who are experiencing homelessness. Unlike DC General, these new and dignified programs will have places for children of all ages to play and do homework and will include wrap-around services to help families stabilize and exit homelessness quickly.

“We are fulfilling our commitment to closing DC General and offering more appropriate options for families experiencing homelessness,” said DHS Director Laura Zeilinger. “Replacing DC General with new short-term family housing will play a critical role in helping District families regain the stability of permanent housing."

Closing and replacing DC General is just one piece of the District’s Homeward DC strategic plan. Between 2016 and 2017, after the first full year of Homeward DC implementation, the District saw a 10.5 percent reduction in overall homelessness, a 22 percent reduction in homelessness among families, a 15 percent reduction among veterans experiencing homelessness, and a three percent reduction among individuals experiencing homelessness.

“With the implementation of the Homeward DC plan and substantial investments in solutions, we are seeing marked progress in our work to make homelessness in the District rare, brief and non-recurring,” said Kristy Greenwalt, Executive Director of the District of Columbia Interagency Council on Homelessness. “Ensuring we have facilities at the right scale and with the right supports is an essential part of the Homeward DC plan.” 

The Bowser Administration’s plan to end homelessness embraces a housing-first strategy with the underlying goal of permanent housing for all residents. In addition to making unprecedented investments in affordable housing, since taking office, the Administration has launched new homeless prevention services, preventing a shelter stay for more than 4,500 families; increased investments in permanent housing programs by nearly 60 percent; developed interim eligibility to provide immediate shelter for families in urgent need; and connected more than 3,300 single adults to permanent housing, including more than 1,600 Veterans.