A coalition of 35 non-profit organizations including churches, social service agencies, and landlord-tenant groups have joined together to raise money to help relocate tenants who must leave the Shirley Duke and Regina Apartments in Alexandria.
The group, the Shirley Duke-Regina Relief Committee, will also try to find emergency shelter for those tenants who have no other place to go.
It was announced two weeks ago that the two sprawling, low-income housing projects had been sold for a reported $40 million to a Baltimore developer and one of the original owners of the complex, which was built shortly after World War II. The new owners, who expect to close the deal within a month, have said they intend to renovate the buildings and rent them to middle income tenants.
Organization leaders said this week that about $700 had been pledged for the relocation effort thus far. "We really don't know how much we need," the Rev. Chris Hobgood of the First Christian Church in Alexandria said at a press conference.
The Rev. Hobgood added that the committee did not know how many people would need help. About 300 of the original 1,300 families remain at Shirley Duke and Regina and Alexandria has been operating a community center to help relocate people.
The group also said they hoped to become a part of the political process in order to prevent the deterioration that occurred at Shirley Duke and Regina from happening elsewhere in the city. If this is not done, group leaders said, further shut-downs of low-income housing can be expected in Alexandria.
Group leaders said they thought the City of Alexandria had done what it could to relocate tenants, but they charged that the city government was not moving to prevent the forced movement of minority residents from Alexandria.
"We are concerned that a trend towards a one-class society in Alexandria is developing," the Rev. Hobgood said. "The decreasing school enrollment, the high number of single adult heads of households and childless couples, is reflective of Alexandria moving towards a white, upper-income, middle-class, childless, homogenous community as opposed to a heterogenous community."
Hobgood said the committee would try to influence the city planning process "so that the quality of life in Alexandria is a mixture, open to people of all economic, racial, and age groups."
Alexandri officials frequently state that the city has provided more publicly assisted housing than any other jurisdiction in the Washington Metropolitan area. These officials say that there is little the city can do about the Shirley Duke and Regina closings because these two are privately-owned developments.
Some friction between Alexandria officials and the ministers has become evident in recent days. City Manager Douglas Harman, for instance, has said that for years the religious groups showed little interest in the problems at Shirley Duke and Regina and that they have suddenly emerged to criticize the city. The ministers, especially the Rev. James Hundley of the St. Andrew's United Methodist Church, which is near Shirley Duke, have criticized the city for not coordinating its relief efforts.
In a related development, Alexandria School Superintendent Dr. John L. Bristol has told Harman that he will permit some school buildings to be used as storage facilities for the belongings of displaced Shirley Duke tenants but only for a limited time if the city accepts liability for any damages, to the stored property.
In addition to Hobgood and Hundley, the other participants at the press conference announcing the formation of the Shirley Duke-Regina Relief Committee were the Rev. Lee Calhoun of the Council of Churches of Greater Washington; the Rev. John Peterson, pastor of the ALfred St. Baptist Church and a member of the Alexandria School Board, and Angela Currant, director of the Northern Virginia branch of the Washington Urban League.