Safe, decent, and humane are the building blocks of appropriate housing for families facing homelessness – that’s why Community of Hope supports the closure of the DC General Shelter. For more than 35 years, Community of Hope and our partners have strived to give District families a sense of stability at their most vulnerable time.
The challenges that lead to homelessness vary from family to family – loss of a job, unexpected medical expenses or the snowball effect of falling a month behind. The constant, however, is that every family wants a fundamental need met – stable housing.
Mayor Muriel Bowser recently unveiled her next stage of the Homeward DC plan that calls for the closure of the city’s largest shelter, DC General, which was formerly a hospital and never intended to be used as a shelter. The plan calls for opening seven short-term temporary housing facilities for families across the city. Each short-term housing site will accommodate up to 50 families in small, safe and clean private rooms.
Kelly Sweeney McShane, Community of Hope’s President and CEO, says the announcement is the essential next step to helping families find permanent housing sooner.
“This is an opportunity to reinvent how we think of shelters. Shelters should be thought of as an emergency option to address an emergency situation - homelessness. Families deserve real housing. We endorse this plan and its goals to not glorify shelter as a solution,” says Kelly.
When clients come to Community of Hope after staying at DC General, many express despair and the need to regain their human dignity.
“Conditions were too crowded. I never had a space I felt was ours,” said Joseph Marshall (pictured), who stayed at the city’s shelter with three young children and his fiancée. “It was not a safe place to raise my family. It never felt like home.”
Marilyn Wills came to Community of Hope’s Rapid Re-Housing Program after four months at DC General.
“If you didn’t want to eat the shelter food, you had no other choice but to eat carryout,” said Marilyn. “The shelter food was burned or raw in the middle. You can only have nonperishable food there because there’s no kitchen you can use and you can’t have a refrigerator.”
Community of Hope has a bold goal of ending homelessness for families in Washington, DC. We are pleased to have Jamey Burden, Vice President for Housing, and Kelly Sweeney McShane serve on – with Kelly co-chairing – the strategic planning committee of the DC Interagency Council on Homelessness. We support the whole Homeward DC plan. Our services for families extend from Prevention of Homelessness to Permanent Supportive Housing, touching on all aspects of the homelessness continuum.
We promise to keep you informed as this plan unfolds. Sign up for COH emails on our homepage or check back here as more opportunities to weigh in and learn about this plan arise.
(Photo credit: John Kelly/The Washington Post)