Men linger in Franklin Park in downtown Washington after receiving food and help from church volunteers, Saturday, May 19, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — Nearly two dozen residents of the ANC 3C neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. are fighting to stop the city from breaking ground on a new homeless shelter. Residential group, Neighbors for Responsive Government, have even filed a challenge in the D.C. Court of Appeals.

In August, the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) issued its written ruling (BZA Order No. 19450) approving the District’s application to get a zoning exception so that construction could begin. An appeal was filed in the D.C. Court of Appeals in November by a group of Ward 3 residents requesting a review of BZA’s Order. According to the challenge, they believe the homeless shelter, expected to be complete in the summer of 2019, is inconsistent with the city’s long term plans and will have an adverse effect on the quality of life for residents with noise and traffic. They also argue that city officials were not transparent in regard to the zoning guidelines and possible alternative sites for the project. Located at 3320 Idaho Ave. NW, the site is home to the Metropolitan Police Department’s Second District station.

ANC 3C Commissioner, Nancy MacWood, confirmed that the Department of General Services involved the community with a temporary parking plan and garage design at the soon-to-be construction site. MacWood, who is the chair of commissioners for ANC 3C, detailed that as of now, the lawsuit on behalf of the residents is still under review. She also said construction for the police station is projected “to begin later this month,” and the homeless shelter is expected to break ground in the fall of 2018.

This initiative to stop construction is not the first time citizens within an area of D.C. have fought against plans for a homeless shelter. A shelter that has been planned for Ward 5, has also seen backlash with neighbors and a group named Citizens for Responsible Options, sued the District over those plans.  However, in July the city was able to break ground on a 45-unit family homeless shelter project in Ward 4. Although not a member of any community groups, Ward 3 resident Myles H. Jordan could see why people might be against the construction of the shelters, “If there wasn’t any transparency I understand why they’re upset.”

There are plans to close D.C. General Family Shelter by 2020. At the moment, over 250 homeless families sleep at that shelter, but in 2014, 8-year-old Relisha Rudd vanished from the facility. She was last seen alive in March of that year. Police found her suspected kidnapper, Khalil Tatum, dead in Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Her disappearance received widespread news coverage, causing city officials take a closer look at the security and overall maintenance of the city’s shelters.

“I don’t want another Relisha Rudd situation to happen again,” said Anita Joseph, who works in Ward 3 and is aware of the homeless shelter situation. She further detailed how the news coverage of the disappearance of then Rudd affected her, especially because her younger sister was around the same age. In a statement, the D.C. Department of Human Services, which manages District shelters, said it was committed to providing replacement housing for the homeless families who will eventually have to relocate from D.C. General.

With temperatures dropping many have concerns about the options homeless individuals may have. Thrive D.C., Emery House, and Central Union Mission are just a few of the many shelters in the city. The Coalition for the Homeless is a non-profit organization in the District of Columbia that provides shelter and supportive services to more than 500 homeless individuals and families who are residents in the District of Columbia. WAMU further reported that D.C. plans to place more than 600 homeless families in hotels between January and February in 2018. This number is a vast difference in comparison to the over 900 families that were placed in hotels earlier this year. Mayor Muriel Bowser also plans on placing 400 homeless households into permanent housing by accommodating landlords with a special fund.  According to dcist, the Landlord Partnership Fund, is a privately funded pool landlords will be able draw from in the event of property damage or other potential costs that can come with housing risky tenants.

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