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Nadeau drafts bill to halt homeless camp removal after second cleanup

On Thursday, the city cleared an encampment at New Jersey Avenue and O Street NW despite calls by D.C. Council members to pause the program.

A homeless encampment at the M Street underpass in NoMa was removed by city crews in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 4. (Marissa Lang/The Washington Post)

D.C. Council member Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1) plans to introduce emergency legislation to halt the District’s cleanup of homeless encampments.

The announcement came Thursday afternoon, hours after the city moved ahead with the planned cleanup of a camp at New Jersey Avenue, and O Street NW, despite calls from advocates and some council members to pause the effort. The encampments are being removed as part of the Coordinated Assistance and Resources for Encampments, or the CARE pilot program, which aims to permanently eliminate some of the District’s largest homeless encampments by offering housing to some homeless residents and instituting permanent no-camping zones.

Critics of the CARE pilot, including Nadeau, argue the city should separate the goal of clearing the encampments from providing housing and services to their residents.

“I’ve just circulated emergency legislation to pause the clearings of encampments until at least the end of hypothermia season,” Nadeau said on Twitter Thursday. “Many times it is not a matter of whether encampment residents will accept housing, it is that they have been experiencing homelessness and there are real challenges that can’t be resolved before 10:30am on a date that someone else chose.”

Nadeau did not immediately return messages from The Washington Post seeking comment.

Ann Marie Staudenmaier, a staff attorney with the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless who was at the encampment site Thursday morning, said police officers surrounded the enclosed park as the removal was conducted.

“Advocates like myself weren’t allowed in to where the tents were,” Staudenmaier said. “Police were zealously guarding the area like gatekeepers.”

On Twitter, Nadeau said she was also present when the cleanup began.

“This morning when I arrived at the New Jersey & O St encampment site, there were a number of case workers, advocates and community members helping several residents who had not been housed pack up their belongings,” Nadeau wrote. “There was confusion among encampment residents — some did not know if they were receiving a housing resource, hotel, or if they need to pack up and find a new location to sleep tonight.”

Deputy Mayor Wayne Turnage and his spokesperson did immediately not respond to a request for comment from The Post.

Thursday’s cleanup was previously delayed following a contentious D.C. Council meeting where homeless advocates, council members and others voiced opposition to the CARE pilot after a homeless man was injured during the clearing of an encampment at L and M streets NE in NoMa in October. The man, who was set to receive a housing voucher through the pilot, was scooped up by a front-loader as he slept in his tent.

“While we believe the program is well-intentioned, we have significant concerns about its execution,” said a Nov. 26 letter to Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) signed by council members Nadeau, Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4), Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large) and Elissa Silverman (I-At Large).

According to the pilot program’s online dashboard, of the 45 individuals on the city’s list from the NoMa camp, 31 were leased up into new housing, nine were working with service providers for housing and one had refused help as of November 29.

As of the same date, of 32 individuals on the list from the New Jersey Avenue camp, 12 were in leases, 16 were working toward housing, 13 remained on-site and one refused help. Advocates say more people had moved into the New Jersey Avenue area after the NoMa clearing.

Reginald Black, advocacy director of the People for Fairness Coalition, who was also at the New Jersey Avenue site Thursday morning said many of the homeless people there seemed confused. “I’ve been working all morning trying to make sure people have a place to go,” he said. “It is my understanding the majority are being moved into hotels.”

The city is scheduled to remove two more encampments: one at E Street near 20th Street NW and another 25th Street and Virginia Avenue NW.

“The city is revealing it doesn’t care about the lives of the majority of the people who are being displaced from this encampment,” Staudenmaier said. “We’re on the cusp of winter, of hypothermia season, and they are taking away a safe space where people could put their tents. It’s putting them further on the margins.”

Marissa J. Lang contributed to this report.

Read more:

D.C. delays clearing homeless encampment as mayor’s controversial housing-first pilot continues

D.C. Council members urge mayor’s office to halt homeless encampment clearings until spring