It’s not unfamiliar to hear about one more shelter, warehouse, trash facility or group home being planted in Ward 5. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if that was the first place these businesses chose to look. “Dumping ground” is how some residents describe the Ward.
Just recently, a developer bought the 1935 Tourist Home on Rhode Island Avenue NE (located at 2900 RIA NE) for only $800,000. That’s not a bad price for a building with 20 bedrooms, 8 bathrooms, and approximately 7,740 square feet of living space. Except it’s not going to be a revitalized house with rented rooms for travelers or some nice affordable apartments or reasonably priced condo units. Instead, it’s going to be a homeless shelter for Veterans. The location is zoned R-1-B which permits matter of right development for single-family residential use. There will be 32 male residents at this proposed shelter. The maximum occupancy for this zone is 40.
The shelter will be operated by the nonprofit organization Veterans on the Rise (VOTR). VOTR’s mission “is to provide or assist Veteran’s in obtaining the treatment and support necessary for leading a healthy and productive life.” According to their website, they are funded by the Veterans Affairs Administration and numerous donations through individual donors.
Charles W. Avery is the Executive Director for VOTR. He attended the Single Member District 5A11 meeting along with the developer Dixon Oladele and the architect Martin Barnes to present the plans for the shelter. Unfortunately, the presenters were unprepared for the community meeting. A rendering of the building was presented but it did not show the height elevation compared to neighboring houses. The developers are planning to build a third floor on to the existing building. A plan of the interior space was also presented, but very few people were interested in living quarters. They were interested in VOTR’s programs, safety and crime prevention.
VOTR provides employment placement but with an 11 pm curfew there were doubts by many in attendance at the meeting that the residents at the shelter would be able to work at any late shift businesses. Also, the Veterans will not be housed at the shelter for more than 6 months. Many attendants of the meeting expressed concern about the transient nature of the shelter and the possibility of increased crime associated with them.
Mr. Avery explained that none of the residents at the shelter will be former criminals with violent pasts or pedophiles. Mr. Avery also explained during the meeting that 96% of the veterans who successfully complete the program move into permanent housing. Eight parking spaces will be provided for the staff and there will always be security on the premises. No families are allowed and all of the residents of the shelter must be sober and substance free.
So, what’s the big deal…well, Mr. Avery was willing to work with the neighbors so the shelter would be welcomed into the community. The developer on the other hand was mostly interested in getting the construction started and having tenants begin making lease payments. This didn’t go over very well with the Woodridge neighbors. The handouts we received provided information about the organization but it failed to provide detailed information about the proposed shelter at 2900 Rhode Island Avenue NE. The Woodridge residents were neither convinced nor satisfied with the inadequate presentation delivered by Mr. Avery, the developer and the architect; however, they decided to give it a second try with the community.
An informative meeting to provide refined insight and conception is scheduled for December 11th at 6:30 within the Friendship Public Charter School located at 2959 Carlton Avenue, NE. If any residents within the immediate area would like to express their support, opinions, or concerns, please feel free to attend.
Antonette E. Russell