The District government and the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV), an advocacy group for the homeless, are fighting over occupancy of a city-owned building at 613 F St. NW that now serves as one of the few drop-in centers for street people in the District.
The city agreed to lease the building to CCNV after the group was evicted from its old location near the Convention Center last year. CCNV moved into the F Street building in April of this year but now is facing eviction again, this time by the D.C. government, which wants to redevelop the area.
The CCNV says that hundreds of people a day use the center to take showers, do laundry, get a meal and receive phone calls and mail.
CCNV members claim that the District's attempt to evict the drop-in center violates promises the group received last year from a D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development official that they could stay there at least one year, that they would be given 90 days notice before having to leave and that the city would help them relocate.
The group yesterday took the issue to court to try to block an eviction action it expects the city to file in D.C. Landlord-Tenant Court today.
The CCNV lodged court papers in U.S. District Court asking that the city be made to fulfill the promises the group said it received, and the papers are to be filed today as a suit against Mayor Marion Barry once the group gets the signature of a judge waiving the filing fees. Barry was served with the papers yesterday, a spokesman for CCNV said.
James R. Murphy, D.C. deputy corporation counsel, confirmed that the city intends to take the case to court today to get CCNV evicted.
"We need the site for development," Murphy said, but he declined to comment on the substance of CCNV's allegations, saying that is now is a court matter.
Annette Samuels, Barry's press secretary, confirmed that the CCNV's court papers were delivered to the mayor's office yesterday but said the mayor had not seen them and would have no comment.
The Rev. John Steinbruck of Luther Place Memorial Church, chairman of the mayor's commission on homelessness, reacted skeptically to the CCNV's lawsuit and its claim that it was promised more than it received. Luther Place, which runs a homeless shelter of its own, took the group to court several years ago to get it to leave church property the group had been allowed to use for free and that it refused to vacate, Steinbruck said.
"That is always their way, to throw lawsuits around," Steinbruck said, accusing the group of seeking publicity for itself and refusing to work with other shelter providers.
The court papers include copies of the CCNV's lease with the city specifying monthly rent of $300 and a 30-day notice to vacate. But a declaration of CCNV member Lin Romano said the group was told by city housing department official James Woolfork, who has since left the department, that the city would give 90 days notice and relocation to another site.
But on June 29 this year the group was told it would have to be out by Aug. 1 to make way for a mixed-use project to be built by Capital Landmark Associates as part of the city's urban renewal plan, according to the papers.