Advocate for the homeless Mitch Snyder suspended his four-day fast last night with prayer and sips of water after the White House agreed to give $965,000 to the Community for Creative Non-Violence to begin immediate renovations on the dilapidated shelter at 425 Second St. NW.
In a brief moment of communion at the shelter just before 7 p.m., Snyder, flanked by his girlfriend Carol Fennelly and Sen. Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.), joined hands with other CCNV members and passed a Styrofoam cup of water as a chalice around the semicircle.
Snyder and Hatfield announced that Hatfield, who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, had persuaded the White House to release the money immediately from a discretionary fund of the Office of Community Services. A White House statement confirmed the decision.
"I have been assured by our architect that the million [dollars] will carry us through the month of June," Snyder said. "We expect to begin work next week."
In return, Hatfield said, he had promised the administration that his committee would begin work today on a supplemental appropriations bill, which provides $5 million for renovation of the former Federal City College building.
Hatfield warned, however, that the remaining $4 million cannot be released until the title to the building is transferred to the District. The Senate passed a bill conferring District "ownership" of the building in April. The House subcommittee on government activities and transportation is expected to vote today on similar legislation.
Snyder and 26 others began fasting on Sunday to force the administration to release the $5 million it promised Snyder March 16, after his 33-day fast. Another 1,100 supporters in 27 states had vowed to join the fast today if an agreement were not reached.
Snyder, who was puffy-eyed and gaunt and moved with some difficulty, said he and his followers would resume fasting if the rest of the money were not forthcoming.
"While we accept the senator's commitment -- and I believe he is very serious -- there is nobody who can guarantee the money will be appropriated. It is still the administration's responsibility to provide the $5 million," Snyder said.
Two loaves of bread lay unbroken on the table in front of Snyder. "I won't be eating for a couple of days," said Snyder, who has abstained from both food and liquids. "I've had one sip of water and I've got a stomachache."
The agreement ending the latest impasse between Snyder and the Reagan administration capped a day not only of closed-door negotiations by Hatfield, but also of high rhetoric by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who compared Snyder to Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
Earlier in the day, Jackson called inaction on the shelter "another expression of the president's insensitivity to the poor."