Monday, July 17, 2006

Franklin Shelter Closing: D.C.'s Homeless Stuck Between Rock and Hard Place

Taken from a staff editorial of Street Sense, D.C.'s homeless newspaper

Years of uncertainty of the Franklin School shelter at 13th and K Streets, NW, may be approaching a resolution, with the Williams administration signaling that the shelter could be closed by the end of the 2006-2007 winter hypothermia season next spring. But with renovations and other issues at the few remaining downtown shelters, the fate of the 240-plus men who lay their heads at Franklin remains unknown, as does the ultimate arrangement for emergency shelter beds in the downtown D.C. area.

Franklin opened as an emergency shelter four years ago, and rumors of its closing have been circulated almost since it opened. Now the rumors are becoming a reality, and how the and its homeless people got to this point is a perfect example of how not to make decisions.

For over a year, city officials have said they will only close shelters once alternative space is found. But when Randall (School shelter) closed in southwest, no alternative in the area was found.

There are troubling signs that Franklin could end up the same way. The city says that every effort is being made to find alternative space for Franklin's residents. It's good to know they're trying to head off a disaster, but it sounds like too little, too late, considering the difficulty of finding anywhere to put a shelter, even a temporary one, as city officials have often explained.

Last spring we heard about plans to close Franklin and turn the building into a "hip hotel." Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Stanley Jackson has moved ahead on this deal, while city officials responsible for helping homeless people have been playing catch-up. And there is still no plan for replacement beds.

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