Activist Mitch Snyder, "pretty weak and pretty tired" after ending a month-long hunger strike, said yesterday his group will look to Hollywood, not the District government, for the funds to complete renovation of a downtown shelter for the homeless the federal government has agreed to turn over to the city.
"We have no intention of seeing the city put any money into this at all -- it has other uses for its money," said Snyder, leader of the Community for Creative Non-Violence, which operates the shelter at Second and D streets NW.
Snyder halted his fast Sunday after federal officials pledged to turn over the homeless shelter to the District government and provide $5 million of the estimated $7.5 million cost of renovating the dilapidated facility.
The agreement -- the second time Snyder has secured White House aid for the homeless by fasting -- represented a dramatic turnaround for shelter residents, once threatened with eviction.
Snyder said yesterday he will be going to Hollywood for the May 1 preview of a made-for-television movie about CCNV's work with the homeless and that this event and other fund-raising programs planned for New York and here should help raise the additional money needed to renovate the shelter.
"People in Hollywood are telling us that, if necessary, they'll raise the $2.5 million for us," said Snyder, who said he hopes to reduce renovation costs by getting construction firms to perform some of the work at no profit.
An initial White House promise to turn the shelter into a model facility was extracted after a 51-day fast by Snyder and two days before President Reagan's reelection in November 1984.
It fell apart during subsequent wrangling over renovation costs, and Snyder said yesterday he wasn't sure his decision to starve himself would work a second time.
"When I realized I was going to have to fast again, it was the lowest moment in my life," he said. "Physically, the body can't take it, and politically, you can't keep doing that again and again or it loses its impact."
But he said he believed Reagan administration officials "had no desire to see me die," particularly with the Hollywood film on his life scheduled for broadcast in mid-May.
"And I also think they decided to spend the $5 million when they figured out what it would cost to replace the shelter."
Snyder said it will cost $125,000 to $150,000 a year to operate the shelter once it is renovated and that CCNV will rely on volunteers to run a variety of programs there, some of which, including alcohol and legal counseling, are already being provided.
He said more than 1,000 people stayed there Sunday night.
Answering critics who have said that putting the homeless in such a large facility is "warehousing" them, Snyder said that space is not the issue. It's what is put in that space.
"Have you ever heard anyone argue against the Hyatt-Regency or the Watergate?" he said.
Audrey Rowe, D.C. commissioner of social services, said the city got drawn into the dispute over the shelter after the federal government started talking about closing the facility down and leaving the District to cope with the results.
Under the new arrangement, the city will lease the building to CCNV but will have no program responsibility, she said.
The city will monitor health and safety regulations, but it will be Snyder whose reputation is on the line.
"If it doesn't work, Mitch would have to close it down," Rowe said, adding, "if it doesn't [work], he won't have to fast."