The District government is developing contingency plans to aid homeless shelter residents caught up in a dispute between the federal government and the Community for Creative Non-Violence, despite Mayor Marion Barry's earlier statements that his administration would not get involved in the conflict.
Audrey Rowe, commissioner of social services, said the city is considering a plan to help pay for winterizing the CCNV shelter at 425 Second St. NW, and has asked CCNV leader Mitch Snyder to provide an estimate for those costs. She said the city also is considering the possibility of expanding District-operated shelters in the event the CCNV facility is closed.
"Winter is upon us," Rowe said.". . . I have no interest in continuing the bureaucratic and political strategies and have people go in this building without proper heating."
Rowe noted that the U.S. Court of Appeals holds the key to the protracted shelter dispute, but that it is unclear when the court will rule on a CCNV suit that would prevent the federal government from closing the Second Street refuge.
"The whole court process could take a while," she said. "I think we have to seriously consider whether we should ask the federal government to either reimburse the District for making the weatherization or consider splitting the cost with the District or doing it themselves."
CCNV and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials disagreed in June over the terms of an agreement to renovate the structure and HHS subsequently announced it would shut down the facility and assist in opening a new, temporary facility in Anacostia. U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey ruled HHS could close the shelter if the agency developed alternative plans for the shelter residents.
CCNV appealed the decision and, in the interim, has asked the appellate court to order the federal government to make $235,000 in improvements to the shelter.
Barry had adopted a hands-off policy on the shelter, calling on the federal government and CCNV to work out their differences and pointing out that the District government already spends more than $7 million to aid the homeless.
Rowe noted that District officials also are preparing for the possibility that the court will approve the closing of the CCNV shelter. She said recent surveys have indicated there are more homeless persons in the city than was previously believed.
"If the judges close Second Street, then the issue is what additional bed space is going to be available at Anacostia and what additional bed space do we need to build into District-sponsored facilities so we can absorb that excess population," she said.
Officials with the D.C. Coalition for the Homeless, which operates the 600-bed shelter for men in Anacostia, have asked HHS for permission to use an adjacent, unused building to expand the shelter. Bill Mallon, HHS deputy chief of staff, said no decision had been made on the request.
Elisabeth Huguenin, president of the coalition, said that although the Anacostia shelter population is about 400, the coalition needs more space.
"We have decided that although we could put 600 people in there, we don't want to have this kind of overcrowding," she said.