By Monica Kamen
On Monday, June 13, Mayor Bowser signed a bill that will allow the city to finally close DC General and replace it with smaller, more dignified shelters throughout the city. The plan, which was brought to the Council in February, underwent substantial changes as the bill made its way through the legislative process, but ultimately was passed unanimously.
Due in large part by the efforts of Chairman Phil Mendelson, ward councilmembers, and the Council budget office, the Council identified three alternative sites for the proposed shelters in Wards 3, 5, and 6. The bill provides the required finances and allows the city to use eminent domain to purchase these new sites, meaning they will be District-owned. This will help save the city approximately $165 million, ensure that the shelters will remain in the District’s inventory indefinitely, and address community concerns, particularly in Ward 5, with regard to the environmental safety of the site and proximity to transportation and grocery stores.
The $50 million identified to purchase these new sites will come out of the District’s capital budget, rather than the operating budget. Because it is often more difficult to identify operating dollars for many of the programs for which Fair Budget advocates year after year, there will hopefully be more operating dollars to invest in permanent housing solutions for families who are housing unstable.
The Fair Budget Coalition congratulates the Council and the Mayor for working quickly to identify the right plan to finally actualize the goal of closing DC General. We hope we will continue to work with both branches of government to ensure that these sites are developed as quickly as possible and that the designs of the shelters maximize safety and security for families.