Turning a former George Washington University dorm into a homeless shelter stirs opposition

A court battle is underway over a former George Washington University building being turned into a shelter for homeless people with medical conditions.

The school sold Aston Hall at 1129 New Hampshire Ave. NW last July to the District government for $27.5 million. The city hopes to convert the 10-story structure by the fall.

But the GW Hatchet student newspaper reports that a group with property interests in the West End neighborhood filed a suit last month in D.C. Superior Court in an effort to block or delay the sale.

The university is defending its sale of the building to the city for the purpose of erecting a shelter.

An attorney for the law firm ArentFox Schiff, which is representing the West End D.C. Community Association, declined to comment as the matter is pending litigation.

“Ever since I came to GW, I can remember that I’ve always walked by homeless people at some time in the day. Whenever I’m walking on the streets … I’d always see a homeless person and I think it’s very hard to avoid,” said Andrew An, a rising senior at The George Washington University and a member of the university Senate.

“There is a homelessness crisis and when that homelessness crisis is staring right at you in the face, it is very difficult to not address that issue, which is why I do support the building of this shelter,” he added.

Aston Hall had been used to house graduate students, and An said a university cost analysis found that it would make more sense to construct a new building instead of renovating Aston Hall.

The D.C. Department of Human Services eventually plans to house as many as 190 people in the shelter.

The university has intervened in the lawsuit to defend the sale.

“It’s just very hard to ignore the homelessness issue in the Northwest Washington, D.C. area,” An said. “When you’re just walking to class and you see a lot of homeless people, it’s just something that’s unavoidable.”

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up