The federal government and the D.C. Coalition for the Homeless have set Thursday as the opening date for a temporary 600-bed shelter for the homeless in Anacostia Park.
Tom Denson, director of the shelter, which occupies an old Navy Department building, said shuttle van service will begin that day to take homeless men from a run-down shelter at 425 Second St. NW, which the federal government wants to close.
The vans will also follow routes through downtown, Northeast and Anacostia to pick up homeless men for the Anacostia shelter and to carry homeless women to a 60-bed shelter at 455 Florida Ave. NW that the coalition also plans to open Thursday.
Denson said both shelters will operate 24 hours a day, in contrast to the Second Street shelter, which is open only at night.
Officials said the Anacostia shelter will serve three meals daily and offer medical, psychological and counseling services under a much firmer regimen than at the Second Street shelter, which is operated by the Community for Creative Non-Violence.
Darrel Grinstead, assistant general counsel of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the CCNV shelter, housed in another old federal building, will not be closed until at least seven days after the new shelters open.
The plan for the Anacostia shelter has been strongly criticized by Mayor Marion Barry and by CCNV leader Mitch Snyder, who has asked a federal court to stop the government from closing the shelter that his group runs.
The case is before the U.S. Court of Appeals.
When plans for the Anacostia shelter were announced Sept. 26, federal officials said they expected it to be ready in mid-October. Grinstead said renovation work and hiring the shelter staff had caused the one-month delay.
Denson said officials were fearful this week of flooding from the rain-swollen Anacostia River, but he said that only slight water damage occurred.
The coalition has received $3.7 million from HHS to operate the Anacostia shelter until April 30 and to establish and renovate long-term shelters elsewhere in the District.