Sunday 19 November 2023

D.C. Delays Homeless Shelter At Former George Washington University Dorm Amid Lawsuit

 City officials in Washington, D.C., said a new homeless shelter at a former George Washington University dorm will be delayed at least six months amid a lawsuit from residents of the area.

The homeless shelter at the vacant former dorm will now open in the spring or summer rather than this year, officials with the city’s Department of Human Services said Wednesday.

George Washington University sold the building, called the Aston, to the D.C. government for $27.5 million in August. The vacant former dorm is a 67,000-square-foot building at 1129 New Hampshire Avenue NW in the nation’s capital.

One reason for the shelter project’s delay is contract negotiations with a services provider for the shelter, officials told The Washington Post.

Meanwhile though, the project has not been popular with residents.

A group called the West End DC Community Association filed a lawsuit last month to block the homeless shelter, arguing that the city’s plan to offer medical services at the shelter violates zoning rules. The lawsuit claims D.C. “ignored and/or intentionally circumvented” its own zoning laws by planning to build a medical clinic in a residential zone.

“There has been a lawsuit, a federal complaint. So that has added to our plan, having to respond to things that maybe we did not anticipate having to respond to. But nevertheless, we have experienced some delays,” the city’s Human Services chief of staff David Ross said Wednesday night at a meeting hosted by the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission.

The shelter will offer medical services for people with chronic conditions such as liver disease, but the shelter is “is absolutely not a medical facility,” Ross said.


“No needles, no drawn blood, no procedures, no anesthesia, so forgive us for being a little loose of the lip by saying medical because that’s what is conjured up,” said Anthony Newman, deputy administrator for the city’s Human Services’ family services administration.

The same community group previously filed another lawsuit against the sale of the building in July, but withdrew that suit once the sale was completed.

Washington, D.C., has struggled with rising homelessness in recent months.

Homelessness had been declining in the D.C. metro region since 2019, but it rose 18% this year to nearly 9,000 homeless people, according to a May report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Other cities are facing a more dire homeless crisis.

On the West Coast, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego have all seen a rise in homelessness in recent years.

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