A health care facility in Northwest Washington's Federal City Shelter that will provide extensive medical and dental outpatient care and other services for the District's homeless population was officially opened yesterday.

Medical Services for the Homeless, praised by its founders as a landmark for the nation, is a block of examination and therapy rooms and a 32-bed infirmary. The clinic is ensconced in the bright, clean space that used to be the rat-infested basement of the shelter at 425 Second St. NW run by the Community for Creative Non-Violence.

The CCNV clinic is part of the $14 million renovation of the shelter that is expected to be completed by late December. David Nelson, director of the clinic, said the facility now includes rooms equipped for physical therapy, podiatric treatment, mental health couseling, dental and medical laboratories, and within a couple of months will include a 22-bed post-detoxification center.

At opening ceremonies yesterday, Nelson said the facility will serve not only the 1,700 people who will be housed in the shelter when renovation is completed but also will be "open to all homeless people" in the District. The service's scope, he said, makes it unlike any other.

"There's {no such facility} in the nation that offers such extensive services to the homeless," Nelson said.

The clinic was made possible by donations, such as $70,000 given by USA for Africa, and in-kind grants of goods or services from 20 public and private organizations. The 32 infirmary beds, with cheery patchwork quilts, were provided by the Serta Corp. through the International Sleep Products Association.

Medical personnel at the clinic will include dentists provided two days a week by the city's public health commission, volunteer professionals and faculty and students at the Howard University School of Nursing.

Mayor Marion Barry, joined by Nelson and CCNV spokesman Mitch Snyder, cut a strip of gauze bow-tied between the clinic's waiting area and examination rooms yesterday afternoon, symbolically marking the occasion to the hearty applause of about 50 guests.

Minutes earlier, Barry and D.C. Commissioner of Public Health Reed V. Tuckson, praised the public/private initiative that spawned Medical Services for the Homeless. Foremost in that effort, Barry said, were people such as Nelson. "It takes people like that who give up a lot to give a lot," Barry said.

"It's not just enough to offer a bed and a hot meal to the homeless," Barry said. Health care for homeless people is the responsibility of the community, he said, and it "has to be comprehensive. We have to take a holistic approach to it." Barry quoted Snyder, saying that homeless people are not the government's responsibility but are "the whole community's responsibility."

Snyder later pointed out paintings placed at regular intervals around the clinic's freshly painted walls that are among about 200 works of art donated to CCNV by local artists.

More paintings are needed to make the clinic "noninstitutional," he said, but likewise more medical professionals are needed to work at the clinic because "it's a place where people can come and share their skills and make a difference."