The Reagan administration this weekend offered to turn over the homeless shelter at Second and D Streets NW to the District government, along with $5 million for repairs to the building, if shelter founder Mitch Snyder would end his monthlong hunger strike, according to a high-ranking federal official.
However, Snyder and other members of the Community for Creative Non-Violence, which operates the shelter, protested yesterday that renovations would cost at least $7.5 million.
A $6 million compromise offer, negotiated by city officials, was rejected by the administration last night, the federal official said.
According to the high-ranking official, the administration offered to transfer the shelter facility and its site, valued at $18 million, to the city along with a "no strings attached" cash payment of $5 million.
"The guy is starving and we want to see him get off this kick," the official said. Snyder's 51-day hunger strike in 1984 ended shortly before the November election when President Reagan pledged to turn the dilapidated CCNV shelter into a model facility.
After a period of negotiations with Snyder, the administration said his plans for renovation would be too costly and that the shelter would be closed.
The federal official said the offer was made late Friday or early yesterday and that "D.C. jumped on it." But yesterday afternoon, according to sources close to the negotiations, Snyder told city officials that more money was needed, angering administration members who had already criticized the $5 million offer as overly generous.
One federal government source questioned whether Snyder's refusal to accept the offer might be intended to generate more publicity for the shelter, which is scheduled to be featured by CBS in a "60 Minutes" segment tonight.
A dramatized version of Snyder's life is also being filmed for airing on television next winter.
But supporters of Snyder, who was treated at Howard University Hospital last week for a potassium deficiency brought on by his fasting, say they fear he is dangerously ill, and they accused the administration of being "willing to let him die over a million dollars."
Although the District government has been trying to stay clear of the controversy over the administration's promise to repair the shelter, Mayor Marion Barry announced in January that the city would spend $250,000 in emergency repairs on the building.
CCNV has been operating the 800-bed shelter for homeless persons in the old Federal City College building for two years. Even with the opening of a second 300-bed facility in Anacostia, CCNV spokesmen say the shelter has been housing record numbers of street people -- more than 1,000 last weekend, when gusty winds and 14-degree temperatures drove the wind-chill factor below zero.
The federal government had been trying last fall to close the shelter, but after several court hearings, the president announced in December that the building could remain open for the winter.
A news conference concerning the offer has been scheduled for 11 a.m. today at the shelter.
Last May, the federal Department of Health and Human Services authorized $2.7 million for repairs to the shelter, but CCNV, whose proposal for renovations totaled $10 million, said it would block construction workers from beginning the repairs. After months of bickering, HHS awarded $3.7 million to the D.C. Coalition for the Homeless, which opened the Anacostia facility as a temporary substitute shelter.