The Community for Creative Non-Violence yesterday appealed a judge's decision to allow the federal government to close a squalid downtown shelter for the homeless, and at the same time asked the judge to keep the facility open while the appeal is pending.
The CCNV said that if the 800-bed shelter it operates at 425 Second St. NW is closed on Aug. 31, as the government says it intends to do, "many of the current residents will be without minimum shelter."
U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey ruled on Monday that the facility is unfit for human habitation and that the government could close it, but not before relocating the estimated 600 men and women who have been sleeping there on recent nights, and devising a long-range plan "to eliminate homelessness in the nation's capital."
The government has not announced where it plans to send the homeless who have been staying at the CCNV shelter. President Reagan, prompted by a 51-day fast by CCNV leader Mitch Snyder last fall, agreed two days before his reelection to turn the facility into a "model" shelter, but the government more recently has sought to close the building.
Deputy Undersecretary of Health and Human Services Dixon Arnett said federal officials are working out plans with District government officials and the Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group for the District's homeless, to move the shelter's residents to several locations. He said the sites will be announced when final arrangements have been made, possibly within a few days.
"Where we place people now could wind up as shelters for the next winter or two," Arnett said. "We want to keep some of the longer range things in mind" in selecting the new shelters.
The federal government has said it will spend $2.7 million on the relocation effort that it had once allocated for rehabilitation work on the Second Street facility.
Despite such assurances, Peter J. Nickles, a lawyer for CCNV, claimed in court papers filed with Richey that government officials "evidently intend to ignore and violate the terms of the judge's order by closing the Second and D street shelter even though no replacement facilities are available."
Nickles said that once the facility is closed, it "will be permanently lost as suitable shelter" and that "without this facility, those providing care and services to the homeless will lose contact with and access to the most helpless and insecure."
In addition, Nickles asked Richey to order the government to make emergency repairs at the shelter while the appeal is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals. Nickles asked the appellate court for an expedited hearing in the case before Aug. 31.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Royce C. Lamberth, who has defended the government in the suit brought by Snyder to force the government to repair the facility, said the government is "certainly not going" to keep the shelter open or make repairs unless Richey orders it to do so.
Snyder has vowed that the shelter's residents will not leave the facility.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Huguenin, president of the Coalition for the Homeless, said it is "very pleased with Judge Richey's decision. The coalition has been against warehousing of the homeless and we have always felt that what the CCNV was doing was warehousing. The shelter should have been shut down a long, long time ago."