Bowser talks homelessness, school overcrowding at ANC meeting

Media Credit: Dean Whitelaw | Staff Photographer

Mayor Muriel Bowser fielded questions from Ward 2 residents about addressing homelessness.

Mayor Muriel Bowser fielded questions about issues in Ward 2 at the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission’s monthly meeting Wednesday.

More than 75 people packed into the West End Library to ask Bowser about concerns like overcrowding in local schools and homelessness. At the meeting, the ANC also passed resolutions pressing the D.C. Council to require construction companies to address sidewalks obstructions and create bike lanes around construction sites and urging Bowser’s administration to fund upgrades for the School Without Walls at Francis Stevens.

Addressing homelessness
Bowser said the current homeless encampment-clearing process is ineffective because residents experiencing homelessness often do not comply with the District’s current clearing protocol.

District officials notify homeless residents that Metropolitan Police Department, Department of Public Works and behavioral health professionals are coming to clear the site on which they reside, according to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services website.

“General poor living conditions can promote other health issues, and it is detrimental to the quality of life for everyone,” she said. “So for all of those reasons, we have this protocol, and we invest millions of dollars in shelter.”

Bowser said the D.C. government provides shelters for residents experiencing homelessness, but many people without permanent housing do not utilize the spaces. Her administration released Tuesday the Housing Equity Report, which includes plans to create 36,000 new affordable housing units by 2025.

“We have a shelter bed for each person that you see,” Bowser said. “They may or may not come into shelter, largely its mental or substance abuse issues, but other people are making decisions based on a family situation.”

Overcrowding at the School Without Walls
The commission unanimously passed a resolution asking Bowser and D.C. Public Schools officials to allocate funding to modernize the School Without Walls at Francis Stevens by 2020 to accommodate for a recent uptick in enrollment.

ANC Chairman William Kennedy Smith said the school can hold 513 students, but 568 students are registered for next year.

Cedric Hendricks, the co-chair of the Local School Advisory Team at the School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens, said Bowser should implement long-term solutions to address the growth the school has seen in recent years.

“The councilmember has been on our side, the Commission here has been on our side, we just need you on our side,” Hendricks said.

Bowser said she would look into allocating funds for school improvements during budget allocations next year.

“The way we make capital investments is on a six-year plan,” she said. “And I can add projects, if they’re really big ones, for example like this school would be.”

D.C. Council Vision Zero bill
Commissioners unanimously voted to support a resolution Commissioner Detrick Campbell introduced that calls on the D.C. Council to require that construction sites accommodate bicyclists as part of the proposed Vision Zero Enhancement Act.

The resolution states that the Council should prioritize the installation of protected bike lanes and upgrade and install new sidewalks around the District.

Bowser’s administration implemented the Vision Zero Initiative in 2015 with the goal of eliminating pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities and serious injuries by 2024.

Campbell said prioritizing pedestrian safety is particularly important to address in the wake of the fatal car crash that occurred outside the Shops at 2000 Penn in July and a fatal crash last September that killed a man scootering in DuPont Circle.

“I wanted to make sure that we are able to send in some type of testimony to come and support, especially after what happened in our ANC and the ward and D.C. in general,” Campbell said.

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