The Future of the Federal City Shelter

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Exploring options in order to make the lives of the people who live in the shelter better…

Over the past several months, the DowntownDC BID has been engaging in ongoing meetings to present information and solicit feedback on concepts for changing the environment at the Federal City Shelter. The BID’s meetings have included discussions with persons that are homeless, homeless service providers, neighboring property owners, District Government officials, and community members.

The Federal City Shelter building is located at 425 Second Street NW, and is owned by the District of Columbia government but managed by Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV). The building shelters over 1,200 people nightly, and includes space for homeless service organizations, including the CCNV, a Unity Health Care clinic, D.C. Central Kitchen, Clean and Sober Streets, and New Hope Ministries.

The existing 200,000SF building was originally constructed as a temporary structure in the 1940s, and in spite of numerous and continuous remedial efforts, the District Government has struggled to maintain the facility to adequate standards.

The DowntownDC BID, which has long worked to provide services for the many homeless individuals who sleep on the streets or stay in shelters, came to this effort because of an interest in providing better services and housing opportunities for persons exiting homelessness. Along with many others, the BID recognizes the deteriorating condition of the current Federal City Shelter and the adverse impact this creates for those served in the building.

The BID’s effort is being coordinated by Chapman Todd, a long-time leader in managing and delivering homeless services in the District. The BID has approached this effort with the hope to increase and substantially improve the current level of services provided in the building while addressing the rapidly deteriorating physical conditions of the building. To that end, Mr. Todd has been working on behalf of the BID and with homeless community members and experts to identify ways to improve and secure better living conditions for everyone presently sheltered in the building.

In particular, the BID team has been exploring possible ways on which the adjacent parking lots, which are owned by CCNV, could be the site of a brand new facility that would provide permanent housing for formerly homeless persons, in addition to the services that are currently provided within the Federal City Shelter. These lots encompass approximately 350,000 SF of development potential that could be used for these purposes. In vetting this ambitious concept, the BID has identified the possible funding source as the proceeds from either selling or leasing the existing Federal City Shelter City, which has a development potential of close to 500,000 SF. In addition to funding the creation of a new building on the adjacent lots, a transfer of the existing Federal City Shelter site could fund a homeless services trust fund to provide sustainable operating support to programs and services that work to transition persons out of homelessness.

The BID’s goal is to coordinate conversations and deliberations among the many parties, including homeless people currently residing at the shelter, homeless services experts, and other interested parties over what is the best way to move forward with this possibility. The BID is serving primarily in a facilitative role as the initial conceptual phases of a potential redevelopment are explored.