Uncertainty over reopening of women’s services building in Anacostia after January gas explosion

Calvary Women's Services' Good Hope building in Anacostia, which provides services to women experiencing homelessness, was damaged by a January gas explosion at the building next door. (WTOP/Scott Gelman)

The Southeast D.C. explosion that damaged a day care and destroyed a convenience store last month also left a building that supports women experiencing homelessness unusable, and it’s unclear when renovations can start or when it will reopen.

Kris Thompson, CEO of Calvary Women’s Services, said the Good Hope building in Anacostia serves as a transitional housing site. It opened in 2012 and provides housing and support services to 45 women each night, she said.

The organization offers housing and other support to women experiencing homelessness and domestic violence survivors, Thompson said.

The Good Hope programming “not only provides housing, but ensures that women have access to mental health care and to case management, employment services, educational classes,” Thompson said.

The Jan. 18 gas explosion happened at the building next door, leaving smoke and water damage at the Calvary Women’s Services facility. During a walk-through Wednesday afternoon, some of the windows were boarded and the floors were bare.

Sixteen kids were safely evacuated from the day care, and one person — who officials said was hit by debris — was taken to the hospital with minor injuries after the explosion.

About 30 women and staff were in the building at the time of last month’s explosion, Thompson said, and all were safely evacuated. Firefighters responding to the explosion ran a hose along the building’s staircase and worked to extinguish the fire through some of the building’s windows.

“When there’s water damage and smoke damage, you pull up drywall, you pull up flooring, you pull out windows, you have to replace doors, so there’s pretty extensive work to be done on all three floors of this building,” Thompson said.

The women living in the building at the time of the explosion have moved to the organization’s other facilities and have been able to collect some of their remaining belongings. But, Thompson said, there’s “some limited capacity at this moment, because these beds can’t be filled here in this building on Good Hope.”

It’s been a difficult month for the women living in the housing program and for staff, Thompson said.

“Calvary is committed to making sure that women who are experiencing homelessness have all of the resources and support that they need to end their homelessness for good,” she said. “And so an event like this certainly makes it feel like we’re putting folks on a bit of a sidetrack.”

The group is working with contractors and insurance companies, but Thompson said a timeline for when the building will be able to reopen is unclear. The cost of the repairs is also still unknown.

The organization is launching what it’s calling a “Restoring Hope” fundraising campaign, “which is intended to make sure that women have, again, all the resources they need, so that we can make sure that women’s belongings are available for them again, that we have the kinds of funds in place to ensure that programming is available,” Thompson said.

Calvary Women’s Services runs six housing programs in D.C.

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Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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