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D.C. unveils long-hoped-for downtown day center for the homeless

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Glimpse inside the new facility, housed at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church

The downtown day center
Bob Rives, courtesy of Moya Design Partners

The District débuted its inaugural downtown day-services center for homeless residents on Monday. The center—located in the basement of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church at 1313 New York Ave. NW—opened after months of delays resulting from construction work.

Homeless advocates have called for a centrally located one-stop shop for human services for years. The center will provide meals, showers, laundry machines, computers, housing help, employment support, and other services from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays. It is anticipated to see at least 100 clients a day, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration says.

The city contributed $1.7 million in funding to the facility, which the DowntownDC Business Improvement District will oversee in partnership with Pathways to Housing DC, a nonprofit. In a statement, Pathways’ executive director Christy Respress said: “It can be overwhelming to navigate a complicated social service delivery system while experiencing homelessness and fighting just to survive each day. The center brings all of the services people need together[.]”

D.C.-based Moya Design Partners led the interior design and branding for the center. In a release, the firm says its “challenge was to transform a dark basement into an oasis where clients feel welcome, cozy and at home.” The lobby includes a neon sign and plant graphics while the rest of the space features restrooms, an area for grooming, and tables and chairs.

“At the end of the hallway, clients are greeted by the ‘Community Garden,’ a two-story lounge space where the community can relax together under a ceiling adorned with plants,” Moya’s release points out. “The room includes wood-finished tables, cyan chairs, white high-top tables with computers, and allows clients to use the internet, enjoy snacks and beverages, and watch the news or movies together on the 85 [inch] television screen. Surrounding the core of the garden, there is a laundry room, kitchen, offices for staff and a conference room.”

Last year, Bowser originally announced that the center would open before November 2018, when hypothermia season officially started. The need for such a facility became more acute after the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library closed to the public in 2017 for an update.