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Expletives Over Easy

The controversial Franklin Shelter issue exploded into an expletive-filled argument over breakfast this morning before D.C. Council members went into a legislative meeting where Council member Marion Barry plans to introduce emergency legislation that would require beds for the homeless in the downtown business area.

Downtown is in Ward 2. That's Jack Evans's territory.

He said he did not understand why some of his colleagues are interested in reopening a "piece of....shelter." (Fill in the blanks.)

"Is this move about you and the mayor or is this about this shelter?" Evans asked Barry. He answered himself that he believed it is "the former."

In an interview, Barry defended his legislation, "Homelessness is a national issue, it is a city-wide issue," he said. "For anyone saying this is a personal issue is out of their damn mind."

He said that he introduced the legislation and placed in it boundaries because the homeless people need to be downtown so their livelihood depends on begging. (He is, however, pulling the legislation from today's agenda as council members try to work out disagreements among each other and with the administration.)

"Homeless people during the day they panhandle. If they are moved to the Martin Luther King shelter, there is no people out there to panhandle," Barry said. "Most of us support Housing First, low-barrier shelter, the reality (is) we have not seen the mayor's plan. The mayor thumbs his nose at the council. This is a human issue."

During the breakfast, Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) and others also expressed concern that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) did not provide members with details of his plan, particularly the addresses to which 300 homeless have been moved.

Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), chairman of the Committee on Human Services, said he has received addresses from the providers that are under contract with the city to relocate the homeless and assist them.

He said he is trying to weigh some council members' concerns with what he sees as a program that could better the homeless. Franklin Shelter "did not function like an emergency shelter," he said. "It functioned like a place to live."

It was the argument that Evans was trying to make, saying Franklin has been a failure in terms of helping to end homelessness.

Evans also jumped on other council members for "making speeches at the shelter," which is at 13th and K streets NW. D.C. Council member Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7) crossed the Anacostia River on behalf of the homeless, which are being moved into apartments in her ward as part of the mayor's plan to put them in permanent housing.

He said the late Council Chairman John A. Wilson would have said, "Stop @**@ing with my @**@."

After the breakfast, Evans said he wanted to be quoted accurately. "Don't put any dot, dot, dots," he said.

Staff writer Hamil R. Harris contributed to this report.

By Nikita R Stewart  |  October 7, 2008; 11:29 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. Council  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Barry Challenges Fenty, Calls for Downtown Shelter for Homeless
Next: The Debate and the Sideshow


Everyone agrees that the District's shelters have been unsuccessful at ending homelessness, but whose fault is that? I don't remember Jack Evans ever fighting for more funding for Franklin Shelter so there could be services or physical improvements to the building. Affordable housing, permanent supportive housing, and small shelters with services are all needed if the District is serious about drastically reducing or ending homelessness. Jack Evans believes that because the District has neglected its shelters for so long and failed to provide quality buildings with quality services, the answer is to provide no shelter at all. Why not open some model shelters so that people don't have to sleep outside until we have more affordable housing?

Posted by: Andy Silver | October 7, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

"Begging" isn't a job.

And structuring a shelter so that it is convenient to opportunities to panhandle is destructive to the homeless. We enable them to continue to self-destruct, one day at a time.

Making it easy for them to beg for a 'living' means they will never seek out real employment, will never seek out mental health and substance abuse counseling, will never actually get better.

But apparently the opportunity to pander is more important than actually helping with a long term solution.

Posted by: Hillman | October 7, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I for one support the closing of that eyesore on K Street NW. It's a blight on what could be a beautiful corner.

Apparently, Mayor Barry has trouble remembering the rules (not a shocker to anyone here I'm sure). Aggressive panhandling isn't permitted in DC, and it's not something the City Council should encourage. Giving the thumbs up to panhandlers in downtown is bad for the city's image when it comes to tourists, visitors, and neighbors who just want to go for a walk down the street.

The homeless have made Franklin Park downright scary to walk through at any time of day. Yes, they have the right to go where they want, but what about the rights of those of us who live in that neighborhood? Clearly, Barry doesn't care because we're not in Ward 8. And in that sense, Mr. Evans has a legitimate point.

Downtown isn't just businesses anymore, and the people who complain about being harassed by the homeless don't all live in Northern Virginia. Shaw's not the eyesore it was 10 years ago, and the people moving into these condos were residents of other cities before they moved to downtown DC.

Homelessness is an issue the city needs to deal with, and housing is a key solution to this problem. But keeping masses of homeless folks housed in a historic building that could be used to enhance Downtown is a waste of space and resources.

Posted by: Logan's Resident | October 7, 2008 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I see nothing has changed in the city. So now they want to move out the homeless from downtown because folks don't want to see it. Well we need to see it so that we can help because it could easily be us or someone we know. The lack of respect or care for people, even when they don't have a permanent address concerns me.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 7, 2008 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Barry didn't really make the strongest of arguments, but irrespective of what he says, the fact of the matter is that we as a city need emergency shelter downtown. It doesn't have to be at Franklin. In fact, one thing Evans is right about is that large shelters don't help people come out of homelessness. So open smaller shelters, Jack. Make sure there are services at these shelters. You have a responsibility as a downtown ward Councilmember, and throwing a tantrum or making threats is not in any way helping you fulfill that responsibility. Let me put this in words you might better understand: GROW THE #@%! UP.

Posted by: Dupont Resident | October 7, 2008 2:34 PM | Report abuse

What was the expletive?

Posted by: Karl | October 7, 2008 2:34 PM | Report abuse

I tend to remember Jack Evans tried to get the Franklin school for his friend Herb Miller. Is that deal still on the table. It was going to be a luxury Hotel.

I think we need to make sure there are shelter beds available and with the eonomic crisis we will be facing in the District we may actually need more of them.

Posted by: peterdc | October 7, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

"Well we need to see it so that we can help because it could easily be us or someone we know."

And we see how well that's worked in the past 40 years since homelessness has been a political cause.

Posted by: Hillman | October 7, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Only a few months ago, Evans promised the Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) to keep Franklin Shelter "open until the residents of Franklin are housed and there is an alternative space for 150 low barrier shelter beds downtown.”

What happened to this promise? Oh, right. He's already won the primary. I hope the rest of WIN will hold him accountable.

Posted by: Washington Interfaith Network | October 7, 2008 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Homeless Native | October 7, 2008 6:59 PM | Report abuse

It isn't that many years ago that Evans closed the shelters at Foggy Bottom-it didn' solve the problem. We are going into hypothermia season with inadequate placements for men, women and families. As the economy tanks even more, there will be a need for more shelter. The question is who does Jack have Franklin lined up for

Posted by: Denise | October 7, 2008 7:39 PM | Report abuse

With the economy in the state it is, we should all look at homelessness as a serious issue that will unfortunately expand in the coming months. It appears many people are two paychecks from facing a serious housing dilemma. Denise,I couldn't agree you more. Homelessness knows no single quadrant in the District of Columbia and that needs to be forefront in the Council's minds. We need to ask ourselves a rhetorical question and then act: who would come to my aid if it was me sleeping on the streets?

Posted by: southyrndiva | October 8, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

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