Fifty short-term apartments for homeless residents are likely coming to Idaho Avenue in upper Northwest DC. At a community meeting last night, some residents showed just how much they think the poorest people in DC need to stay far away from their exclusive enclaves.
Helder Gil posted this flyer on Twitter, which people anonymously circulated at a community meeting Thursday night on a proposed homeless shelter next to the police station on Idaho Avenue, between Cleveland Park and Cathedral Heights.
It includes the astoundingly offensive phrase, “Homeless lives matter; the lives of community homeowners matter too.”
What’s being proposed
Mayor Muriel Bowser set a very laudable goal of spreading out homeless shelters across all eight wards of DC. It’s not best for homeless residents to all be concentrated in one small area, and puts the burden entirely on one neighborhood.
Most people expected people in some wealthy neighborhoods to fight the idea of any homeless people coming to their communities. But the flaws in how the Bowser administration executed on this plan, with seemingly too-high payments to property owners, some of whom were campaign donors, overshadowed any such debate.
Recently, the DC Council revised the plan to place all shelters on public property or land the District could acquire. In Ward 3, west of Rock Creek Park, the new site is the parking lot of the police station on Idaho Avenue. And now that the legitimate problems with the plan are past, some are indeed attacking the very idea that upper Northwest has to play any part in solving the need for homeless housing.
Many of the usual arguments against any project have come out in full force: the zoning doesn’t match; our schools can’t afford it; what about neighborhood security; this will add to traffic and harm my property values.
Greetings from Ward 3 meeting on DC Council's plan to put a homeless shelter in police station parking lot. pic.twitter.com/i0IsUQbnf8— Helder Gil (@hgil) May 26, 2016
The anonymous flyer says, “We fundamentally oppose the Mayor’s plan of equal distribution of homeless population — to build a shelter in each ward regardless of land availability and economic soundness.” (The land seems to be quite available, actually, and economically, DC has to spend nothing to buy a parking lot it already owns.)
The letter, and people at the meeting, alleged that a shelter would harm property values. DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson disputed that:
Q: (Very long question about cost)
Mendo: There's no evidence of impact on reduced prop values from a well-run shelter.
— Helder Gil (@hgil) May 27, 2016
"There are plenty [of] empty public buildings in the city which can be renovated and used as shelters,” the letter also says. First off, not really; second, this really is pretty much empty public land. What they mean is, “there are plenty of public buildings in someone else’s neighborhood.”
Talking about how the statements are wrong on their face is beside the point. The statements are morally wrong. Many people of DC’s fancier neighborhoods, even ones who identify as Democrats (”liberal in the streets, NIMBY in the sheets”) believe all of the city’s need for housing, whether for homeless residents, the working poor, young college grads, or anyone else, should be solved somewhere else where “there’s plenty of empty land.”
Never mind that all of those other neighborhoods “over there” have people in them too, people who might be okay with some shelters or halfway housing or other social services but understandably don’t want it all. Why should one part of the city get an opt out just because it’s the richest part?
Q: Why this location & not another city-owned property?
Cheh: We all have social responsibility & Ward 3 needs to step up as well.— Helder Gil (@hgil) May 26, 2016
Not all residents of the area are hostile to the less fortunate:
Q: How can we help w/tutoring and welcoming new neighbors?
Cheh: Thank you.— Helder Gil (@hgil) May 27, 2016
Yes, to whoever said that, thank you.