As temperatures drop, the need for shelters grows

WASHINGTON — With the arriving cold snap, most of the region will reach
for the thermostat and keep the heat on well into next week.

But others will reach for more layers while the District continues to seek a
shelter solution for its growing homeless population.

Temperatures in the region are forecast to drop to the freezing point and
below until the middle of next week, adding urgency to formulate a plan to
expand shelter capacity.

“Very cold weather is good for the issue, but obviously terrible for the
people,” says Council member Jim Graham, of Ward 1. “It does galvanize public
interest beyond the homeless.”

He will reconvene a hearing next week aimed at getting answers about the
District’s plan to accommodate an estimated 840 families that will need
shelter this winter.

The existing shelter capacity is less than half the projected number, at 409

“The question is, where are we going to get this needed capacity, and how are
we going to pay for it?” Graham asks.

His office says the Department of Human Services has indicated the
possibility of sheltering up to 250 additional families at a cost of $11

During the first hypothermia alerts of the season, the demand for shelter did
not exceed capacity.

Graham says he’s interested in finding smaller buildings, as opposed to larger
facilities such as D.C. General.

“Once we get to 600 children in one building, with five to six people in a
hospital room — this is unmanageable,” he says. “It’s an impossible task.”

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