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While it needs to be stressed that there is currently no evidence of this being a done deal, it should be passed along that city officials have apparently been considering renovating the old GSA warehouse at Half and L Streets, SE, into a shelter for homeless families.
This is the building that was the subject of a drive back in 2013 by residents who hoped that it could be transferred to city control and eventually become a "market and community space" called the Half Street Market. And it was a little over a year ago that the news came out that the federal government was indeed looking at swapping the building for construction services to be provided by DC at the St. Elizabeth's/Department of Homeland Security site.
My understanding is that Ward 6 council member Charles Allen, while acknowledging the need for such a shelter, is not in favor of using this particular building in its current one-story warehouse form for such a project, citing the loss of potential development above ground level on the site as well as retail in a space so close to both the Navy Yard Metro station and Nationals Park just down Half Street.
(And, it must be said, the optics of having the words "warehouse" and "homeless shelter" so closely tied together are a bit cringeworthy.)
The building is also getting a new neighbor on its southern end, as a Homewood Suites hotel is currently under construction at 50 M.
I sent a request on Monday to the mayor's press office for additional information, but haven't as yet heard back. If I do (because you know how top-level offices love responding to requests from low-profile bloggers), I'll update this post.
Comments (33)
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dude says: (11/17/15 9:23 AM)

FedInExile says: (11/17/15 9:30 AM)

JD says: (11/17/15 10:30 AM)
In other news, I've been told that the new section of I Street is going to get paved tomorrow--but there's still not a firm opening date, because DDOT has to approve the final version first. But it at least appears to finally not be too far off.

JHUGrad says: (11/17/15 11:17 AM)
Charles Allen should absolutely fight this. It makes no sense to have a homeless shelter there. The city could benefit so much more by selling this off to a developer.

bryan says: (11/17/15 12:42 PM)
I think a homeless shelter is a good idea. Our city needs more of them, and we are a part of the city. It would certainly be a better use of space than an abandoned warehouse. If you don't want it located there, trade it with another neighborhood developer for there vacant land.

JES says: (11/17/15 1:15 PM)
There's something to be said for putting one somewhere around here, but I'm with councilman Allen that the middle of what's soon to be a retail corridor on Half Street is NOT the ideal place to put it.

202_cyclist says: (11/17/15 1:22 PM)
I am not opposed to a homeless shelter --- we need to help the homeless-- but to locate this on a prominent street, right next to the metro station, is not a good location. Not to sound callous but I agree with JHUGrad, the city will lose significant tax revenue that could otherwise be used to help provide services to the homeless. Admittedly it would never happen but a good temporary location would be the former dorm housing for Congressional pages on New Jersey Avenue.

FedInExile says: (11/17/15 1:59 PM)
I'm not an expert, but it seems that the best site for a homeless shelter would be somewhere that (to the extent economically possible) best serves the needs of people who generally need to be able to walk to services that they use frequently...whatever those really are. I do not know much about the needs of the homeless population in SE/SW, but politicians, community leaders, and development interests should work to come up with a good compromise location that serves both the particular needs of the homeless and the interests of the larger community in which they are located. JMHO, after all....

SWag says: (11/17/15 5:02 PM)
Like it or not, homeless people are part of our community. They DESERVE civic services the same way we all do. Not only that, but DC has it particularly bad, so we don't really have the luxury of waiting to find the ideal location. Folks are literally gonna freeze to death in DC this winter. Think about that...

202_cyclist says: (11/17/15 5:25 PM)

I don't disagree with you as long as this is a temporary shelter. Scarce land next to a metro station shouldn't be used for a permanent shelter. I also think it would be more productive to develop this site and use the property taxes to fund other homeless services throughout the city.

JD says: (11/17/15 5:29 PM)
Or a shiny new nine-story building could be built on that site with ground-floor retail that could still have space for homeless families within it.

Eric says: (11/17/15 6:22 PM)
"Folks are literally gonna freeze to death in DC this winter"

Let's check back in four months and see if your political scare mongering pans out.

SWag says: (11/17/15 10:08 PM)
Eric - 2,000 homeless people die of hypothermia in the US every year. DC has a lot. Odds are some in DC will die, but if it helps you sleep better in your nice shiny Navy Yard condo to dismiss homeless issues, go ahead. Doesn't change the facts. How exactly will you know one way or the other? Do they report on dead homeless people?

Vpvp says: (11/17/15 11:25 PM)
Heard mention of an empty boys and girls club location somewhere nearby that could be an alternative - but not sure where that is located. Also agree that this location is not ideal - especially next door to a hotel. It doesn't make sense to spend money on a single story warehouse when then revenue from the property sale / on going tax revenue could fund the renovation or construction of a better alternative for needy families.

Mark says: (11/18/15 7:24 AM)
Cynically, I'd say floating these rumors is an attempt by city officials to kill off the idea of the Half St Market and be able to sell the property to the highest bidder, with the neighborhood then happy to have averted a less desirable use rather than upset about the loss of a potential amenity. Those checks to sports team owners for new facilities don't just write themselves.

Scott says: (11/18/15 9:03 AM)
SWag, if this is the article you're getting your numbers from, you're misinterpreting. link

2,000 homeless people die OF ALL CAUSES, not of hypothermia. According to this article, at least in Denver most homeless people die because of drug and alcohol related causes. Only 20 out of 677 died from the cold and 33 others from pneumonia. So that's <8% of homeless deaths attributable to the cold, in a much worse winter city than Washington DC.

I'm not saying you're wrong that the city needs more homeless resources, but if we're discussing it lets use the actual facts.

Scott says: (11/18/15 9:04 AM)
Sorry, link on the second article: link

Also, that's 53 homeless dead of the cold OVER 12 YEARS, in Denver.

JES says: (11/18/15 11:03 AM)
Honestly, this is probably dead in the water. If Allen doesn't support it, I can't imagine it moves forward. Plus I'm pretty sure Hilton hotels (owners of the Homewood Suites brand) won't just roll over without some kind of fight on this. Can anyone think of anywhere else where a homeless shelter is right next door to a luxury hotel? I can't.

Should we have a shelter somewhere in the neighborhood? I can't answer that question. But if we do, the middle of the future Half St retail corridor, next to a hotel, and 2 blocks from the stadium where thousands of people pass before and after every game probably isn't the right spot.

SWag says: (11/18/15 11:10 AM)
DC has nearly twice the amount of homeless people as Denver in half the space. So I'm not sure that's a good comparison. It seems like your're denying that NO ONE could possibly die in DC from hypothermia? Come one... If knowing (or thinking rather) that ONLY <8% (according to you) will die from hypothermia makes you feel better about wanting a fresh food market, go right ahead - that's your prerogative. But 8% of DC's current homeless population would be like 900 people!

SWag says: (11/18/15 11:15 AM)
I guess your point was 8% of homeless deaths, but still - doesn't change the harsh realities of it all

JHUGrad says: (11/18/15 11:16 AM)
Good link Scott... All this misinformation being put out there makes this seem like a Democratic/Republican

SWag says: (11/18/15 11:44 AM)
if homeless people needing shelter is misinformation it's no wonder why the problems still exist. smh. yuppies

SWag says: (11/18/15 11:49 AM)
From the article:

With extreme cold hitting the Northeast and Midwest this week and winter even coming to the South, even more homeless people will be at risk. An estimated 2,000 homeless people died on the streets last year, according to those who memorialized them.


dude says: (11/18/15 12:00 PM)
If we are looking at this from a financial point of view it might be better to let all 2000 people die and that way the city wouldn't need to add another homeless shelter for next winter.

323 says: (11/18/15 1:37 PM)
@dude - reminds me of this...


Ampersand says: (11/19/15 12:58 PM)
I realize that I'm late to this party, but SWag, were you aware that DC already guarantees housing to 100% of homeless people in the winter already? When it runs out of shelter space it puts them up in motels. Nobody is at risk of being left on the street. In fact, some theorize that this guarantee results in homeless people relocating to the District - why sleep on the streets in Arlington when DC will put you in a motel? In fact, a full 63% of the region's homeless are in the District proper - see here: link

That said, as much as buying motel rooms for homeless people is an inefficient use of resources, putting a 1-story homeless shelter on a tract of land worth tens of millions of dollars is a far worse decision in terms of financial losses. Plus, as JD points out above, it's not an either/or proposition. Please don't accuse everyone opposing this project of wanting homeless people to freeze to death.

JHUGrad says: (11/19/15 1:47 PM)
Well said, Ampersand.

SWag says: (11/19/15 4:04 PM)
I didn't accuse anyone of anything. You guys are over compensating. If you dgaf about homelessness - that's fine.

SWag says: (11/19/15 4:06 PM)
I think if the options are a vacant building or a homeless shelter, one clearly makes a better option. But please, keep telling me how homelessness is not an issue in DC. And how simple it is to put homeless people in shelters. I'm all ears -_-

JES says: (11/20/15 8:10 PM)
The option isn't a homeless shelter or a vacant building. You forgot the third option, which is sell it to a developer. If the council wants, apply the proceeds to homeless services.

JD says: (11/25/15 11:18 AM)
D.C. mayor updates council on search for sites to build shelters for families:


JHUGrad says: (11/25/15 11:50 AM)
I didn't see 49 L Street mentioned in the article. Are they still considering that site?

JD says: (11/25/15 11:51 AM)
They didn't mention any sites. I just posted the link so that people would know any sort of announcement is apparently coming before too much longer.

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