U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Richey gave the federal government permission yesterday to close on Thursday evening a downtown shelter for the homeless operated by the Community for Creative Non-Violence.
Richey said a new 600-bed shelter for men that opened in Anacostia last week along with a new shelter for women in Northwest was sufficient to meet his requirement of last August that the downtown shelter could be closed only after the government made alternative arrangements for the residents.
He praised federal officials for making "a substantial effort to deal with this problem in a humane and forthright manner" even "without the help of the District of Columbia government or the CCNV."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Royce C. Lamberth said the government was still undecided about exactly when it would close the dilapidated CCNV shelter at 425 Second Street NW. A government statement to Richey last week said the shelter would be allowed to remain open at least until Thursday evening, which would be seven days after the Anacostia shelter began operating.
Mitch Snyder, the CCNV leader who has strongly opposed the Anacostia shelter and resisted efforts to close the one operated by his organization, said CCNV lawyers would ask the U.S. Court of Appeals today to block Richey's order.
Richey's action "is a little bit strange," Snyder said, "considering that the government didn't ask to close the shelter" on a specific date.
He said CCNV would ask the appeals court to delay the closing of the downtown shelter for at least 10 days and to require Richey to hold a hearing on the adequacy of the new shelter.
Richey said the two new shelters were "adequate alternatives to the Second Street . . . facilities for the time being" and that they that provide more extensive services than CCNV's shelter.
When the Anacostia shelter opened last Thursday, residents of the Second Street shelter staged a demonstration, vowing not to move. Snyder said the building, which is owned the federal government, has been fortified with boards and barricades to resist possible eviction.
Yesterday, the D.C. Coalition for the Homeless, which operates the Anacostia shelter, said the new facility's population had risen to 280 Monday night, with about two-thirds coming from the CCNV shelter. But Snyder said the population at his shelter has risen slightly since the new shelter opened.
The Coalition for the Homeless has received $3.7 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to operate the Anacostia shelter until April 30 and to establish and renovate long-term shelters elsewhere in the District.
Yesterday, Richey said the federal government had not yet developed the " 'long-range' plans to eliminate the problem of homelessness in the nation's capital" that he had asked for in his August ruling. But he said CCNV could seek a court review of such plans later.