More than 100 residents of the Burleith area urged the D.C. school board last night to include neighborhood residents in future decisions about a shelter for homeless persons that was opened last week in unused athletic buildings in that Northwest neighborhood.
The group, members of the Burleith Citizens Association, adopted a resolution asking the board and the mayor to answer questions about the operation of the shelter, including arrangements for security and transportation.
The request came during a meeting of association members and school officials, arranged after the area residents complained about the suddenness of the decision to open the shelter at 38th and R streets NW.
The board agreed last Thursday to lend two small vacant athletic buildings, which are part of the property of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, to the Georgetown Clergy Association to operate as a shelter.
"We are not saying that there should not be a shelter for the homeless, but we are concerned with where and how this shelter is run, if it is going to be in Burleith," association president Ruth Worthern told the group.
School board president R. David Hall defended the move, saying, "I made the decision in the frame of an emergency because a cold front was moving into the area. I did not want people to freeze to death. We discovered we had an empty building that was suitable and we moved very quickly to prepare it for these men."
The Rev. William Wegener, chairman of the Georgetown Clergy Association and pastor of Georgetown Lutheran Church, said the shelter, which can house 30 persons and will remain open until March 31, has been filled to capacity the previous three nights.
Several persons at last night's meeting questioned why the homeless were not housed at churches in the Georgetown area.
"We are concerned about people staying alive in cold weather," Wegener told them, "and our churches do not have adequate facilities for the homeless."
The two small field houses, which have bathrooms, showers and toilets, are used only in the spring and sit vacant during the winter months, according to Maurice Eldridge, Ellington's principal.
George Latir, who said he had been at the shelter since it opened Thursday, said "This is about the best shelter that I've been to, and I've been to them all . . . . Even if I have to travel across the city to get here, I feel a lot safer in Georgetown than anywhere else."