Seven of the city’s eight wards would receive a new homeless shelter by 2018, each one with a capacity of 29-to-50 units. Ward 2, however, will not be receiving a new shelter.
Instead, they have updated an already well-established existing women’s shelter. The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Ward 2 site happened on Feb 10, 2016, before the site-selection legislation was even released (as of the time this article was published, the legislation is not publicly available).
Mayor Bowser will cut the ribbon on the Patricia Handy Place for Women. First new shelter under her new plan. pic.twitter.com/0rm1kOOCwz
— Matt Ackland (@mattacklandfox5) February 10, 2016
The improvement of the Ward 2 shelter is wonderful news for the folks who will benefit from the services there. But let’s dispel of the narrative that this is an #all8wards plan. Mayor Bowser said, “I don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘Hey, I don’t think Ward 1 should be a part of the homeless solution.’” But she’s wrong. She did have the luxury of saying this for Ward 2.
So clearly Mayor Bowser is taking liberties with this concept of fair distribution services. by considering a pre-existing shelter in Ward 2, and not considering any shelters in any other wards.
But let’s look at the goal of this one-per-ward concept: even distribution of the burdens that subsidized housing may place on a community. Placing one shelter in each ward is a rather simplistic way of achieving that goal. And that one particular solution is being presented as a foregone conclusion.
Is there a smarter way? If 8 (or 7) is the correct number of shelters needed to replace DC General, can we look across the city to identify 8 (or 7) locations based on the the merits of those sites and communities, and their ability to absorb a shelter? If the cost of real estate across an entire ward requires a huge payout to a wealthy landowner for the deal to move forward, should we reconsider this one-per-ward proposal entirely? Wouldn’t we rather that money be spent on actual services for families in need?
Or better yet, why not just ask Mayor Bowser fulfill your campaign promise of increasing government transparency, so that we the people can help the government (made up of humans who don’t always make the best decisions) to work smarter and more fairly towards meeting their goals. The mayor has spoken of the need for community feedback for the goal of ending homelessness to be successful. But her actions speak otherwise.