District releases plan to close D.C. General homeless shelter

City officials have announced their plan to close the D.C. General homeless family shelter “at the earliest possible time” and replace it with smaller, community-based shelters. It is estimated that this closure will take place during the 2015-2016 winter.

The plan, which was a collaboration between the D.C. Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services B.B. Otero and the D.C. Department of General Services and Department of Human Services, was presented to the public on Tuesday.

D.C. General, once a public hospital, was converted for use as an emergency homeless shelter in 2001. The aging, 288-unit facility has been subject to much criticism in recent years as an “isolating” housing option with questionable living conditions for the families that seek temporary refuge there.

The plan also includes a one-to-one replacement of the number of units currently provided for families at the shelter with units at smaller shelter complexes throughout the city before the closure goes into effect. City officials aim to lease buildings across the District to house families in apartments and single-occupancy rooms during the winter months.

There are currently two major options under consideration for the one-to-one replacement plan: leasing or buying six buildings with 40 and 50 units, or leasing and buying a combination of small (between 40 and 50 units) and medium (60 and 100 units) complexes. It is estimated that leasing these spaces would be $24 million per year in operation and maintenance costs; owning these same buildings would be $48 million in one-time costs and an additional $18 million per year.

The closure of D.C. General and its gradual replacement is a part of Mayor Vincent Gray‘s larger “500 Families, 100 Days” campaign that was launched on April 1. As of earlier this week, 382 families had been housed through the rapid re-housing program as well as permanent supportive housing.

Long-term housing plans aside, D.C. General is expected to be at full-capacity this winter with both a lack of funding for overflow shelter in hotels and 40 fewer units.

Photo: Screenshot via Google Maps

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