In recent years, as the fashion of criminalizing the people experiencing homelessness in the United States by local governments has grown more popular, the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, has largely respected the rights and needs of its poorest residents. Unfortunately, it seems that even as the city’s new mayor has publicly dedicated her administration to giving those experiencing homelessness within her jurisdiction the supports they need, her office is moving to displace the small number of men and women who have formed their own refuge from the city’s dangerous streets and chaotic shelters. A very troubling way to celebrate National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week (Nov. 14-22).
Erected atop an empty stretch of grass in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, co-existing alongside foreign embassies and luxury hotels, a small community of tents serves as home for a tight-knit, diverse community of unhoused Washingtonians. In recent weeks, that community has had to face the possibility of dislocation, despite the fact that many of the camp’s housed neighbors support them. According to WTOP, a local news station, Marina Streznewski, who serves as president of the Foggy Bottom Association, believes homeless residents are better off where they are than in the city’s notoriously overcrowded shelter system. “It may be cold out here, but it’s safer.”
By the time you read this, these men and women may already have been relocated. The city moved on Monday to close down the camp, but media attention and an alleged refusal by local law enforcement to assist the mayor’s office in the tear-down has meant that many of the tents remained in place at noon of the following day. However, members of the besieged community believe it’s only a matter of time before they and their belongings face an uncertain future back out on the street. Worse yet, vans sent to relocate residents have reportedly refused to tell them where they’d be taken if they complied with the city’s order.
If you are a resident of the District of Columbia, or if you care about the plight of these and other people experiencing homelessness in the most powerful city in the world, we encourage you to contact Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office by phone (202-727-6300), email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or on social media (tweet @MayorBowser), and remind her that all of her constituents deserve to be treated with respect, and to be sure these and all unhoused residents of the area are offered safe and accessible shelter or permanent housing.
While you’re at it, you can sign our petition asking the District government to join Rhode Island, Connecticut, Illinois, and Puerto Rico in enacting legislation to end legal discrimination against our unhoused neighbors.