After years of discussions about where one would go and how to fund it, the District will finally launch a downtown center where homeless residents can access critical services during the day, when some shelters are closed.
In a release on Thursday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office said the facility is set to open before Nov. 1, when hypothermia season begins. Hypothermia season usually last until the end of March and is the part of the year when outside temperatures drop dangerously low.
The day center will be housed in the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church at 1313 New York Ave. NW and managed by the DowntownDC Business Improvement District, or BID. This means the facility will be centrally located near the White House, Franklin Square, and several Metro stations. Its hours will be Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The District and nonprofit groups like Pathways to Housing DC will provide social services to people who access the center, according to Bowser’s office. Those services include case management, housing assessments, and employment and mental health resources. Visitors will also be able to enjoy meals, take showers, use computers, and do laundry at the facility.
Officials expect that more than 100 people a day will come to the center. In January, 6,904 homeless people were counted in D.C., a decrease of 7.6 percent as compared with the year before. That total included 3,770 unaccompanied homeless people—those not with families and most likely to visit the day center—or a 5.2 percent increase over those counted in 2017.
In a statement, Neil Albert, the head of the DowntownDC BID, notes that “a Downtown Day Services Center has for many years been the missing piece” in the city’s efforts to address homelessness. In fall 2016, the BID piloted a drop-in center for homeless youth at another downtown church, but that one ran only on Monday nights and lacked long-term funding.
The District is supporting the new day center with a $1.7 million grant, says Bowser’s office. It’s not immediately clear how long the money will last and if D.C. lawmakers will eventually set aside dedicated funding for a downtown day center, but they could in the city’s budget.
Advocates for the homeless and city leaders say there has been an acute need for such a facility after the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, D.C.’s flagship library, temporarily closed last year for a $208 million renovation. The downtown library at 901 G St. NW served as a popular place for homeless residents during the day. It is scheduled to reopen in 2020.
- D.C. Homeless Population Decreases For Second Year, But Advocates Worry Many Are Still At Risk [WAMU]
- A New Space for Homeless Youth Quietly Opened in a Church Downtown [Washington City Paper]
- How the MLK Library’s Closure Has Displaced D.C.’s Homeless [Washington City Paper]
- Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library Renovation News [Curbed DC]