D.C. officials shut down tent city near Watergate

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WASHINGTON — The small tent city of homeless people near the Watergate Hotel is gone. After repeated warnings from the city that the area would be cleared, D.C. officials took action Friday to make it happen.

The soon-to-be relocated community members had mixed reactions as city workers moved from tent to tent, distributing notices about how to reclaim property that would be hauled away if not voluntarily removed.

“I’ll pack my stuff and move on from here,” said a man who couldn’t read the notice because he says he wears glasses. “I’ve been homeless for the last 15 years, since 9/11.”

Another man, with a small group of tents in the K Street underpass at 27th Street, was optimistic that city workers would miss or ignore them. “Hopefully they let the folks stay down here.”

They didn’t.

Still, some tent community members wanted to negotiate.

“They say they’re going to get us apartments, but why don’t they get us apartments and then make us leave,” David Parker asked.

Case workers with the District’s Department of Health and Human Service have been regular visitors to the encampment of a couple dozen tents in an area that stretches along the Rock Creek Parkway near Virginia Avenue.

After working to identify people’s needs, case workers offered people being removed from tent city various options including day centers and homeless shelters and in some cases a hotel.

“They’re going to put me in a room to wait for my apartment,” said Lovenia Michelle Evans, who believes she’s six or seven months pregnant and is ready to get out of her tent. “I’m happy [getting] my one bedroom apartment!”

The camp area of about 30 people included some who have had bad experiences in shelters and liked none of the options offered by the city. For any number of reasons, some were vehemently opposed to being relocated.

“I’m going to pack up, let them throw all this stuff away and then I’m going to come right back as soon as they turn the corner,” Parker said.

A portion of the encampment area won’t be accessible, though. It’s going to be surrounded by fencing.

“This site has been permitted for major construction work through the water department,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Brenda Donald, who visited the site to confer with both city workers and tent residents.

Donald said the 90-day project will repair an underground conduit.

“So in addition to just the fact that it’s a health and safety hazard here for individuals to stay, and it’s illegal for them to be camping here, we now have the addition of a major construction project.”

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