Update on Homeless Encampments
by Larry Janezich
Posted January 18, 2022
Last Thursday night, ANC6D got an update on homeless encampments from Jamal Weldon, Program Manager, Encampment Response Program under the Office of Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. During his presentation, he made the following points:
- An encampment is any site where residents who are homeless set up a tent or structure with the intention of establishing residence.
- Homeless residents of encampments are residents of the community.
- The Department of Health and Human Services can’t force encampment residents to move unless the encampment impedes public access or the encampment is a danger to the community or the residents themselves.
- Illegal actions on part of residents of encampments are not under the purview of DHHS.
DC has a strategic plan to end long term homelessness in DC by the end of 2025. The plan – Homeward DC – has made substantial progress in housing homeless families, but housing for unaccompanied adults has been slower in coming. Fully implementing Homeward DC will take time – meanwhile, the city has established a protocol for addressing encampments.
Protocols under The Encampment Pilot Program are triggered when a site presents a security, health, or safety risk, and/or interferes with community use of such places.
The pilot program provides shelter, intensive case management, and pathways to housing as well as behavioral health services through DHS for residents at the targeted locations. Other city agencies are engaged to clean up the site.
Three major encampments have been designated as falling within the criteria established for cleanup under the pilot program:
- NoMa Underpasses, M/L Streets, NE
- New Jersey & C Street Park, NW
- 20th/21st and E Streets, NW
The first two are in the process of housing former encampment residents and Weldon said that out of 111 individuals, 89 have been housed or are in a hotel waiting processing.
Weldon engaged in a spirited discussion with Commissioner Sondra Phillips-Gilbert who pressed for better communication between Weldon’s office and individual ANC commissioners and residents with concerns about encampments. Weldon said communication failures were due to the pandemic and assured greater cooperation.
Regarding an encampment within ANC6D at 18th and D Streets, NE, near RFK – which he called a major concern – Weldon said there has been outreach and his office was working with residents to connect them with resources including housing navigation.
The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services has a website on encampments here: https://dmhhs.dc.gov/page/encampments There are several encampments in Ward 6 which are on the list of Upcoming Encampment Protocol Engagements. Some of the on-or-near Capitol Hill sites scheduled for cleanup have not yet been addressed – likely because encampments are not dismantled during inclement weather.
There are encampments at:
- 11th Street, SE/695 Underpass – Scheduled for Full Clean Up
- 3rd Street and Virginia Avenue, SE – Scheduled for Full Clean Up
- 695 and Virginia Avenue, SE Underpass, (across from Whole Foods) – Scheduled for Full Clean Up
The large encampment on Columbus Circle in front of Union Station is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.
To report an encampment, call (202) 727-7973.