Owners of Pennsylvania Avenue Building Move to Close In Arcade Housing Homeless – Part II
by Larry Janezich
Yesterday, workers began closing up the arcade that fronts the Bernstein Building (Citibank) at 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE. The extension will come at the expense of a number of homeless who sleep under the arcade that will be filled in to extend the store fronts to the sidewalk. The US Postal Service occupies one of the commercial spaces and will be enlarged by the construction.
In September of 2017, Porter Page, Senior Vice President of Commercial Property Management for Bernstein Management, told ANC6B’s Planning and Zoning Committee that the project was proposed “to address the homeless issue.” She cited the number of homeless people sleeping under the arcade makes rental of the several vacant offices there difficult. Page said the company had tried using video cameras to monitor the space but “the problem is way bigger that that”.
Homelessness was the topic of an informal discussion among members of ANC6B’s Executive Committee last Tuesday night, especially a number of homeless-by-choice who have taken up residence in Seward Square.
There are several reasons for homelessness, including mental illness, substance abuse and domestic violence. A high proportion of the homeless are men, black Americans and Veterans.
According to a September 17, Washington Post article by Andrew Van Dam, homelessness on DC streets rose from 2016 to 2018, while the overall number of homeless in shelters and transitional housing has fallen in recent years. Social institutions prioritize moving families into permanent housing, and that might help explain why the number of “sheltered homeless” has fallen. But why the number of “unsheltered homeless” has risen is not clear. See here: https://wapo.st/2nzdbgM
At the ANC’s executive committee meeting, there was no consensus about what could be done about the unsheltered residents of Seward Square, which one commissioner said was in danger of being lost to the community. No consensus that is, except to appeal to a higher authority – in this case the City Council – for assistance. A Washington Post article by Peter Jamison from May 10, 2017, numbered the city’s homeless at 7,473.