The D.C. government intends to shelter more than 100 homeless people in six trailers in a residential neighborhood of Ward 3, said a spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services.
Department spokeswoman Rae Parr-Moore said the city has yet to obtain a lease or a contract to buy the vacant, privately owned land on the 2800 block of Wisconsin Avenue NW. She said the city is under court order to place shelters in every ward in the city and Ward 3 is the only one with no city-run shelter.
"We have only expressed an intent," she said. "We are not there yet."
D.C. Council member Jim Nathanson (D-Ward 3) yesterday called the action "politics with a capital P. I suspect the city has done this to generate a negative vote on Referendum 005."
The referendum, on today's ballot, asks District voters if they want to continue to guarantee overnight shelter to homeless people who request it. Nathanson and most other council members have said they are opposed to the referendum because of escalating costs.
If the referendum is defeated, Nathanson said, pressure would be off the city to implement a series of court orders dictating the number of shelter beds and placement in the city.
He said the city must hold a zoning board hearing before the trailers can be put on privately owned land. Until now the city has sidestepped the hearing requirement by using District-owned land.
The announcement appeared in the D.C. Register on Friday. Advisory neighborhood commissioner Rosalyn Doggett said it set off a wave of concern among some residents of the well-to-do Massachusetts Avenue Heights neighborhood near the Washington Cathedral.
"My neighbors are upset at the idea of change and the specter of something they don't want," Doggett said. "What concerns us is the lack of information. We have no details about the city's plan."