Southeast D.c. Residents Protest A Planned Shelter (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Southeast D.C. Residents Protest A Planned Shelter

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
So as John Lyle was suggesting, city officials are hoping the 11th Street bridge will make it easier to get right from downtown D.C. to the heart of historic Anacostia. And that's an area that's in the midst of a slow but sure economic revitalization. After decades of blight, signs of reinvestment are popping up all over.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:20
Banks, a bustling coffee shop, an art gallery, but many neighbors fear all that could be at risk because of one more recent development in the commercial corridor, a transitional home for women. The local non-profit Calvary Women's Services is building the shelter and community members have been protesting it for more than six months. As Emily Friedman tells us, construction has begun, but the community is not backing down.

MS. EMILY FRIEDMAN

00:00:47
The reason many residents are upset has nothing to do with what Calvary does. They're more than 6,500 homeless people in the District and not even half that many shelter beds. The issue many Anacostians have with Calvary is not its mission, but its location. Greta Fuller, one of historic Anacostia's ANC commissioners, takes me on a driving tour to explain just how many social services there are in her neighborhood.

MS. GRETA FULLER

00:01:14
If you look directly across the street, you'll see Bread for the City. And if you also look right next door to Bread for the City, you'll see Good Hope Road Youth Center. So we're, by no means, lacking social services and programs in our community. You see, we're approaching Minnesota Avenue. We have the methadone clinic. It's Good Hope Institute, right here, to your right.

FRIEDMAN

00:01:44
We continue down Good Hope Road. And there was an employment agency and a program for ex-offenders. Within a five block radius, there are at least 20 social service agencies. Then we arrive at a corner where the buildings suddenly look brighter, newer.

FULLER

00:01:59
There's a Bike Share, we have the Hive where we have entrepreneurs.

FRIEDMAN

00:02:02
This is the heart of Anacostia's business district and the site of Calvary Shelter.

FULLER

00:02:07
Where this shelter is going to be placed is really the main place in our community that's going to spur revitalization and growth for Anacostia.

FRIEDMAN

00:02:19
News that the shelter's coming, she says, has already cut into prospects.

FULLER

00:02:23
I actually had one guy who wanted to come over here and bring a topless bar. And he's deciding against it now since the shelter's coming. He said that he didn't think that a topless bar would survive.

FRIEDMAN

00:02:36
Fuller says, she wants to see something residents like her can actually use.

FULLER

00:02:40
Ideally, I'd like to see a bakery. I'd like to see FedEx. I'd like to honestly see something as simple as simple as a pharmacy.

FRIEDMAN

00:02:48
Calvary's executive director, Kris Thompson, declined to be interviewed for this story. But at a community meeting last week, she took the podium in front of nearly a 100 concerned citizens, some holding cardboard signs that read No Beds in the Business Corridor. Thompson insisted it's not an emergency shelter where people line up to be let inside. The building, she says, will operate much like an apartment building.

MS. KRIS THOMPSON

00:03:12
Calvary is excited to be moving to this neighborhood. We'll be investing about $3 million in this community and want to be a part of the revitalization that we see is already underway here.

FRIEDMAN

00:03:23
Calvary bought the building a little more than a year ago. It's relocating from Chinatown where the organization has operated since its founding in the early '80s. Thompson says, transitional housing doesn't mean a commercial center can't flourish.

THOMPSON

00:03:36
We've been in the Gallery Place, Chinatown neighborhood, during its redevelopment over the last 25 years. And have been good neighbors in that neighborhood and have seen tremendous changes. And it's our hope and our commitment that that would happen in this neighborhood as well.

FRIEDMAN

00:03:53
Greta Fuller was also at the meeting and she came out in stark disagreement. She says, Anacostia's become a dumping ground for food pantries, drug rehab facilities and group homes. People come from all over the city, she says, to use these services. And that's not the sort of traffic Anacostians want.

FULLER

00:04:11
$300 million was spent on 11th Street bridge, was supposed to revitalize and bring our community into the rest of the District of Columbia. And what we have at the foot of that bridge is a transitional housing.

FRIEDMAN

00:04:25
Ward 8 Council member Marion Berry addresses the crowd next and says, since Calvary is not in violation of zoning, it's best to look at the upside.

MR. MARION BARRY

00:04:35
This is not a shelter. This is a transition house for 50 ladies, many of whom have been battered and beaten, domestic violence, drugs. So let's get that straight, very quickly.

FRIEDMAN

00:04:47
While Barry's talking, one protestor walks to the front of the crowd with a poster, it says, Mr. Barry, we need your help.

BARRY

00:04:56
Okay. We're going to open up the floor for questions.

FRIEDMAN

00:04:58
There are a lot of questions for Kris Thompson and all of her answers are short. One proposed solution is that Calvary rent out the first floor as retail space and have the shelter on the upper floors. Thompson does not indicate whether that's possible or not.

MS. NIKKI PEELE

00:05:13
Let's just talk real here. Let's just stop the tom-foolery.

FRIEDMAN

00:05:16
This is Nikki Peele. She a resident of Ward 8 and also writes a blog called "Congress Heights on the Rise."

PEELE

00:05:22
Number one, you're not here because you want to be here, you're here because you're ashamed to be here. Because people just like me stood up all night long, writing articles, twittering and Facebooking and saying, be a good neighbor and come talk to us. We work hard every day so that this community could step up, so we can have places to eat and places to shop and places to live. We want this community to do better. And you just ignored us.

FRIEDMAN

00:05:42
While Calvary continues constructing apartments for homeless women, many neighbors like Nikki Peele say it's the community that's being left out in the cold. I'm Emily Friedman.
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