Waiting for apartments, homeless reestablish D.C. tent city

Some people in the 10 or so tents that remain want desperately to leave the encampment by the Watergate, but say housing promised to them isn’t ready. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Some people in the 10 or so tents that remain want desperately to leave the encampment by the Watergate, but say housing promised to them isn’t ready. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
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Some people in the 10 or so tents that remain want desperately to leave the encampment by the Watergate, but say housing promised to them isn’t ready. (WTOP/Kristi King)

WASHINGTON — The homeless camp near the Watergate Hotel has mostly been vacant since D.C. officials took aggressive action two weeks ago to clear it out. Some people in the 10 or so tents that remain want desperately to leave, but say housing promised to them isn’t ready.

“Ask [the Department of Human Services] what are they doing? How come we seen [sic] apartments two weeks ago and we’re still not in?” inquires Rafael Cruz, who lives in a tent along Rock Creek Parkway near Virginia Avenue.

DHS says the campsites are illegal, unsafe and unsanitary. Also, the area has been permitted for major construction work through the water department.

D.C. is one of the few cities in the U.S. that requires all homeless people be provided shelter when hypothermia is a risk.

“When the temperature falls below 32° Fahrenheit between November 1 and March 31, all people who are homeless must be housed,” according to the DHS website.

Kassandra Moore also is frustrated by the delay to get placed into the apartment she selected after being shown options by city officials Nov. 19.

“The government promised everyone that lived in a tent that they were going to get placed in affordable housing,” Moore says.

Some of the apartments being made available to the city’s homeless have needed to undergo repairs before inspections can occur and people can move in.

Last Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, D.C.’s Department of Human Services tweeted pictures of formerly homeless city residents being moving into apartments that were available.

Some people who vacated the “Tent City” area along the Rock Creek Parkway near Virginia Avenue are being temporarily housed in hotels until apartments are ready. Some have refused to abandon their tents until permanent solutions are made available.

“They better come through soon because it’s going to get cold. It’s going to get cold soon,” says Cruz who adds with a sigh, “Patience is a virtue.”

DHS case workers have been regular visitors to the “Tent City” area working to identify resident needs and to offer support services if they want to get jobs and transition to permanent housing.

On the topic, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services issued the following statement:

While we cannot comment on the situations of specific clients, we can share that the intense outreach efforts by our Departments of Human Services and Behavioral Health have been productive. Last week, several individuals moved into housing and we continue to work with landlords and residents to ensure that we are able to bring the remaining folks at the site indoors. There are some folks at the site that to date have not expressed an interest in receiving services. Our outreach teams will continue to work to provide the highest quality service for each individual experiencing homelessness.

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