It’s a winter weather problem, made worse by the pandemic: fewer places to stay warm during the day for those without a home in the D.C. region.
In a normal year, there is a routine the homeless use to keep warm during cold days.
“Most night hours, they can retreat to overnight shelters,” said Debra Kilpatrick Byrd, director of homeless services for the DowntownDC Business Improvement District.
During the day, she said, many of the homeless usually retreat to libraries and churches to keep warm.
“But because of COVID, obviously that’s been interrupted, and they don’t have anywhere to retreat during the day hours,“ said Kilpatrick Byrd.
To help alleviate some of the challenges, the DowntownDC Business Improvement District — in partnership with D.C.’s Department of Human Services — has opened a warming center at 1313 New York Ave. NW.
It’s open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., when many homeless shelters are closed.
While in normal times they would be able to accommodate up to 100 people at a time, the pandemic has changed that.
“We had to restrict that capacity to 30 [to] 50 people just to make sure they are socially distanced while sitting inside the site,“ said Kilpatrick Byrd.
So, to make sure as many people can be served as possible, they are rotating visitors in and out every two hours.
“We give two hours of time to get out of the cold,” she said. “They’re able to have lunch and move on to other sites.”
And while many places close or reduce their services on Christmas Day, that is not the case with the warming center. It will remain open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is offering a Christmas meal between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
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