Federal officials said yesterday that signs would be posted at noon today closing a disputed shelter for the homeless in downtown Washington, but they said no decision had made on when to evict people who do not leave voluntarily.
Mitch Snyder, leader of the Community for Creative Non-Violence, which has operated the shelter in a dilapidated government building, repeated his threat to resist efforts to close the facilty.
Snyder said 656 men and women stayed at the CCNV shelter on Tuesday night, and added, "The folks in there don't intend to leave. Some of them would be walking out to their death."
On Tuesday the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the shelter at 425 Second St. NW could be closed today, saying the government had provided "adequate alternatives" by opening two new shelters last month in Anacostia and Shaw.
"We expect most of the people will leave and use the other facilities in the area," said C. McClain Haddow, chief of staff of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "But we are aware that Mitch Snyder is encouraging people to defend the building as their home.
"We intend to secure the building. We will do it at a time when we can minimize the risk to innocent people," Haddow said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Royce C. Lamberth said those remaining in the Second Street building after noon would be considered trespassing and subject to arrest at any time.
Haddow also announced that HHS will not increase the capacity of the 600-bed shelter in Anacostia Park, although it has authorized a "modest expansion" into part of an adjacent building to provide more space for those with drug and mental health problems.
Haddow noted that under the Appeals Court ruling, the federal government has no obligation to provide any more shelter beds. "If additional people need shelter," he said, "that's on the mayor's shoulders," referring to District Mayor Marion Barry, who has said he will not expand city-run shelters.
Elisabeth Huguenin, president of the D.C. Coalition for the Homeless, said, "The mayor has to do something now. He cannot just let people stay on the street. It is his legal, moral, and political responsibility to do something."
Barry and other city officials, could not be reached for comment.