Housing Complex

NIMBY Watch: Anacostia Protesting Homeless Women

1217-1219 Good Hope Road, future women's shelter.

It's as predictable as the sunrise, from Petworth to Congress Heights to Truxton Circle to Hill East: A social services organization tries to locate a facility in a neighborhood, the neighbors feel blindsided, and the battle is joined. This time, the drama is about to play out again in the heart of Anacostia's business district, where Calvary Women's Services is redeveloping a 14,000-square-foot building as a women's shelter.

The 28-year-old organization bought the property, in a former Elks Lodge right across from the Department of Housing and Community Development on Good Hope Road SE, for $950,000 in December. It's a $3 million project, and after landing a $175,000 gift from the Cafritz Foundation, organizers are hoping to raise another $750,000 by the end of the year to make the numbers work. When it's operational, the facility will house 50 women at night and serve meals to 100 per day, along with providing other supportive services.

Despite the fact that it's been in the works for seven months now, lots of people in the area found out about it just last week, in an email blast from Council Chairman Kwame Brown. Today, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Greta Fuller fired off a letter to the relevant agency directors complaining that the area was already overburdened with homeless services and drug treatment programs; there are four others within a few blocks of Calvary's site.

"It's a very frustrating process, because the community wants so desperately to move forward, and when services like this are on every block in our neighborhood, it makes it difficult to promote the neighborhood," says Charles Wilson, president of the Historic Anacostia Block Association. "You can tell that some people have been maneuvering behind the scenes to move this process forward...you just get a sense that politicians have made it possible for them to make the transition to Good Hope Road."

Wilson's got a point, of course. While not much has been willing to rent space there yet, that's theoretically a prime retail or restaurant location, and it's hard to convince a sit-down restaurant to put their sidewalk cafe right next to a homeless shelter (whether or not the aversion is well-founded). And of course, Calvary did itself no favors by getting this far along in the process without starting a discussion with community groups; that's only asking for hostility.

Still, there's also no reason why a well-managed shelter has to be a blight on the community. Many are fairly innocuous. And there's clearly a need for these kinds of services, somewhere. Calvary's executive director Kris Thompson was on vacation and unable to comment, but staff are apparently supposed to defend their program at ANC 8A's meeting tomorrow.


UPDATE, August 2: Here's a response to complaints about the use of the term "NIMBY" on this post.

  • hillman

    This has been in the works for some time and they don't bother to even inform the neighbors?

    Got to love hubris.

  • Brian

    Ward 8 has way too many of these facilities. I agree that it seems to be going against what the residents want. I wish the people in Anacostia luck in fighting this. There are laws that prohibit the clustering of social service facilities. Title 11 anyone?

    Is this a permanent home for the homeless? Have there been any success stories for people in these programs? What are the terms? I would bet that the people at DHCD are behind this.

    What does Barry have to say about this?

  • AM

    Listen - I live in Anacostia. How can we have a neighborhood SATURATED with social services and expect businesses to set up shop? Also, when people aren't sleeping or receiving meals, where will they go? On the street? Really? Calvary is going to have even more issues to deal with. We won't stand for it - period.

  • one-sided

    It's as predictable as the sunrise, Lydia labeling residents from Petworth to Congress Heights to Truxton Circle to Hill East NIMBY's. Expect more shallow one sided reporting in the coming months. Next up, she will spend 15 minutes outside a liquor store and extol the virtues of the neighborhood drunks.

    Success of the service doesn't matter, your wishes for your community is just NIMBYism in disguise.

    Gotta love this "Still, there's also no reason why a well-managed shelter has to be a blight on the community" with 0% supporting documentation on any prior success of the organization or it's supporters.

  • Not Again

    The over-concentration of transitional housing projects, boarding houses and halfway houses in Ward 8 is a shame. Good for the residents for standing up! The New Ward 8 is nobody’s dumping ground!

  • Love Ward 8

    Why did the Council and the other organizations funding the project not ask or require community input? Its bad when the elected officials have expectations of an area that are so low you can trip over them.

    I agree that its great to see the residents of Anacostia stand up for themselves. Sounds like they have very positive things going on over there!

    Good luck Anacostia!!

  • Stephanie

    I love the picture Lydia! This is the downtown Anacostia we all know and love!

  • http://greatergreaterwashington.org/vdavis/ Ms V

    I'm a resident of Ward 7, but my business is located in ward 8. I believe there is a need for social services near the neighborhoods where people reside, but NOT on a main street and at the very least not in the business core. Let's pretend for a second it wasn't a shelter, WHY WOULD YOU PUT A 100% RESIDENTIAL BUILDING DEAD SMACK IN THE MIDDLE OF A BUSINESS DISTRICT??

    IF the shelter had to be on Good Hope Rd, it seems that east of 16th Street where it's more residential would be more appropriate. IF it had to be at the location where it's going why not be creative and put a restaurant on the street level where the residents of the homeless shelter can work, earn some money and gain some skills. Then put the residences on the upper floors.

    As if it is wasn't hard enough to get economic development East of the River, decisions like this make it that much harder.

  • Sharonc

    As a person that rides the B2 through downtown Anacostia every weekday morning around 5 am, I agree that the area does not need this shelter on their main drag. Where the he'll is Barry? I'm sorry to see that EOR gets ripped off yet again.

  • Skipper

    SOlution: A zoning overlay. If only Ward 8 had any Council presence to have advocated for such a thing.

  • Mark

    Ward 8 is upset? From the corner of MLK to the Jubilee jobs center the entire block is VACANT. Major tracts of MLK Ave are VACANT. The furniture store next to PNC bank on MLK is and has been VACANT for years. The Elks Lodge was a booze selling dance hall; an accident waiting to happen.

    So someone comes along, with zero city money, and buys a blighted building, will raise and spend millions to fix it up, and everyone gets upset. Put it in a residential neighborhood the other side of 16th? Really? Sure the neighbors would love that one.

    When everything else on MLK and GHR is leased up, birds are singing, Starbucks is looking for its second location on MLK, and this building becomes too valuable, Ward 8 can sleep well knowing that the homeless and low income groups that live in Ward 8 will get displaced somewhere else, and the social services that serve them will go as well. Until that time, be thankful someone is investing in improving the building rather than letting it fall apart like so much else on GHR and MLK.

  • Brian

    Mark, Anacostia is in the beginning stages of revitalization. RE VI TA LI ZA TION look it up if you need to. I think Anacostia would prefer to have the lot remain VACANT than have a homeless shelter. What kind of moron are you?

    If you love shiny new homeless shelters so much, then by all means, lobby for one in your neighborhood. I insist.

  • njp

    Would be easier to argue as a hindrance to the community if there weren't a bunch of vacant buildings there. They bought the building fair and square. If its too close to another such spot, it will need zoning relief. If not, stop being NIMBYs.

  • Hillman

    "So someone comes along, with zero city money, and buys a blighted building,"

    Very few homeless shelters actually get 'zero city money'.

    I'd be surprised if this shelter doesn't get either direct financial assistance or some sort of aid or lucrative contracting from DC taxpayers at some point.

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  • Scott

    I agree with the article that the immediate response to shelters does not need to be negative. N Street Village on 14th Street & N, NW, is a great neighbor in the community that it resides, however it is on the edge of the commercial district, not the center.

    Because, I also fully agree with Ms. V "WHY WOULD YOU PUT A 100% RESIDENTIAL BUILDING DEAD SMACK IN THE MIDDLE OF A BUSINESS DISTRICT??" IF it had to be at the location where it's going why not be creative and put a restaurant on the street level where the residents of the homeless shelter can work, earn some money and gain some skills. Then put the residences on the upper floors.

    14th & U has an Art's Overlays zoning that provide development with an extra floor in order to provide retail at ground level. Putting a revenue generating productive business at ground level that also provided direct training and employment for residents would make sense.

    But, I also agree with the community members that are concerned with over saturation of social services. Poorly run facilities are a blight for everyone, including the residents of those facilities and reflect poorly upon the well run facilities.

    I think the article does a good job of reflecting what is a too common occurrence throughout this city, where non-profits are pitted against the community because the city is not able to provide all the social services required. Unfortunately we spend so much time in these battles and not providing the services.

  • Lou Glorie

    DePillis uses NIMBY as a rhetorical weapon. Its purpose is to shut down dissent, but its potency has been reduced through overuse. What DePillis is really griping about is democracy. She would have us cede our rights and responsibilities to "experts" whose job it is to circumvent public process.

    City planning should be the job of citizens who live in the neighborhoods. Urban Planning is not only an usurpation of that responsibility and right, but a means to set any city on the road to ruin. Our cities are being "planned" to death. Enough--nay, too much--already.

    Regarding non profits: they are too often, wittingly or un, used as wedges to force inappropriate development into neighborhoods. Examination of the finances of these organizations often reveals shocking inefficiencies—negating the justification for outsourcing in the first place. It turns out that the siphoning of our taxes up to the federal level then back down to state and city levels then into various non-profits is a very inefficient means of providing services. Perhaps cities and counties should rethink the ideological basis of outsourcing services. It just doesn't make sense to pay several non-profits to do the work of government in some cases.

  • minc

    Calvary already has a facility in NW that's across the street from Bus Boys & Poets, Taylor Gourmet and Kushi. Customers there don't seem to be bothered by it and I bet the vast majority don't even know they're eating gourmet sandwiches and sushi steps away from a shelter. It's a great organization and not the type of place that has people roaming around and harassing customers. It's more likely that the women at the new facility will be focused on getting their lives together... not bothering the potential customers of stores and restaurants that don't exist.

  • Eric

    As a Ward 8 resident, one must wonder when enough is enough. It seems as if Ward 8 is the social services dumping ground (Methedone clinic, bread for city, half way houses). for the city. I am not saying this service isn't needed in the city but not in part of town that is already overrun with these types of services.

  • http://n/a S.S.

    I am planning to run for Ward 8 City Council. Sometimes it is the way a project is projected into the community. All agencies and all councilmembers know who the ANC commissioner is for any given neighborhood. It is extremely disrespectful when a commissioner is overlooked or left out. However, here is the bright side. Ward 8 has a councilmember who brags about being the last, the least and the lost -- WHY CHANGE NOW?!

    To have so many social programs in a cluster really does not vitalize a community. Even though we have so many residents relying on social services, I would suggest that the people in need are staggered throughout the city and not clustered. Many can be placed in regular units, which would also avoid clustering. The person in need can report to the organizations, headquarters.

  • Historic Anacostia Resident

    I think that most people are missing the point. We aren’t just saying no to a homeless shelter. As a matter of fact, there are over 30 social services organizations within a few block radius of the proposed CWS site. We are holding up our end of the deal with regards to social service organizations. The real issue is that the community feels blindsided, again! Why put another social service organization in the heart of the commercial district, next to a daycare and a little over 500ft from a Methadone clinic? In being a good neighbor, why didn’t CWS come to the community with its plan? Trust me; we have meetings almost every week with social service groups, government agencies and developers regarding their plans on moving into our community. All we want are the same basic amenities as our neighbors across the river. Anacostia is a work in progress. Yes, there are many properties that are currently vacant, but this would be a crippling blow to the change that we are trying to create EOR.