Officials of the D.C. Department of Human Services denied last night that the plight of the city's homeless had reached crisis proportions, and showed members of the press through one facility in an attempt to back up their assertion.
The press tour followed by one day the beginning of a vigil outside the District Building by members of the Community for Creative Non-Violence. Four CCNV members have vowed to live in boxes there until the city responds to the problems of the homeless "satisfactorily."
Audrey Rowe, commissioner of social services, led reporters and television camera crews through the 200-bed Blair shelter at 611 I St. NE, and later took the press representatives along as a city van stopped at grates in the Northwest area of the city and officials offered homeless men and women a place to sleep..
Rowe and the reporters were accompanied by the director of the District's shelter program and the Rev. Ernest Gibson of Council of Churches of Greater Washington, which runs the Blair shelter. Only three of the dozen men the officials saw during the visits to the grates accepted the offer for shelter.
The Rev. John Steinbruck of Luther Place Church, chairman of the recently formed Commission on the Homeless, said that the commission is making progress on treating the problem of the city's homeless. He acknowledged that the number of the homeless has yet to be estimated accurately.
Steinbruck took issue with the Community for Creative Non-Violence and their vigil.
"They've not contacted me," Steinbruck told reporters. "I'm somewhat dissappointed in Mitch," he said, referring to the CCNV's Mitch Snyder. Claiming that more than 12,000 men and women are on the streets and that the city has intentionally underestimated their number, Snyder has demanded that the District turn over vacant properties to his group for staffing.
Rowe, who said at the beginning of last night's tour that she would "go talk with Mitch Snyder ," did not appear at the District Building when she told a reporter that she would. Temperatures last night were expected to drop to around 30 degrees.