Church or Halfway House…or Both

There seems to be a church on Rhode Island Ave NE that also operates a halfway house. It is unconfirmed whether the halfway house is legally operating or if the church decided to just start doing it (many residents nearby have claimed to look into it and said that it is operating illegally….in addition, the church is also operating illegally in the building).

Now, we all know that Rhode Island Avenue NE has its MORE THAN FAIR share of church store fronts and how this will hinder future development (more on this soon) but it seems that the halfway house being part of this particular church has already made a splash with local residents and a nearby women shelter (I choose not to display the name of the church so as to protect the location of the women shelter). Apparently on Dec 2nd, a man from the halfway house entered the women shelter from the rear entrance and had to be confronted by a couple of employees and escorted off of the property.

This incident was the exact type of incident that the women shelter’s Executive Director (and many nearby residents) raised when they made their concerns known to Councilman Harry Thomas Jr’s office months ago when the church began operating the halfway house. Nothing was done in the past.

We hope that Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr and many other civic leaders stand up for good establishments along RIA. The abundance of store front churches is a problem for the redevelopment of RIA, especially when the store front churches are operating without a proper license from the DC government. In addition to these store front churches, the addition of halfway houses along RIA is improper for redevelopment as well. These are commercial properties not homes. There is a possibility of having halfway housing above street level retail but I wouldn’t encourage that either.

My question is this: When is Harry Thomas Jr going to get serious about redeveloping Rhode Island Ave NE and ensuring that our area is safe, clean, and given the amenities that other Wards and areas of the city have? I am not against churches but storefront churches operating as they see fit and over inundating our community is getting out of hand (especially since these store front churches cater to out of city residents).

Here are some pictures of some of the churches along RIA (note: not all are store front churches…some have been operating well for some time):


11 thoughts on “Church or Halfway House…or Both

  1. Thanks for your concern I am responding for several important reasons most importantly is to ask that we not publish the location of my sisters place due to privacy and protection of the clients they serve and the staff and more importantly I have meet with them and community member and my office is working with the city to resolve these concerns. Please email me @ as I continue to resolve these concerns.

  2. Damien Ministries is neither a storefront church nor any other kind of church. It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which helps people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Our food bank is open to anyone who needs food on an emergency basis.

  3. You omitted the church located in the former Soul Food restaurant located betweeen the Halfway house on the corner of 20th and RIA and the Print shop. The expired building permit in the window gives a church as the applicant for a building extension.

  4. And they aren’t just on RIA. The vicinity of the intersection of 18th and Monroe is filled with them. Every storefront. On Sundays, they fill all the street parking and park illegally as well. This creates a real safety hazard.

    The residents in this area would support legitimate neighborhood businesses, but the storefront churches are monopolizing the neighborhood retail space. The churches need to go.

  5. Ward 5 Resident,

    Thanks for bringing up the 18th & Monroe street location. Not only are there churches but an Islamic faith group that occupies the 18th Street corridor on Fridays and sells cooked food from a truck parked either on 18th or Lawrence Street.

    Over two years ago that complex of storefronts at 18th and Monroe was for sale. It was bought and beautifully renovated inside and out. Then, the individual stores fronts were resold or leased and again occupied by churches. As you may know there were churches occupying this site before the renovation. I can’t believe the owners or renovators intended for these nicely renovated buildings to be re-occupied by churches. The economy greatly tanked and possible retailers didn’t have the funds or financing to invest in these buildings. So I think that’s why the churches came back to this spot. The owners couldn’t find any retailers to occupy the space. And, it was better for them to lease/sell the space to churches than have it unoccupied and decayed. I’ve been inside one of the churches at 18th & Monroe and complimented them on how beautiful it is inside. I don’t think this church wants to run the building down, so if they grow out of their location, they will make sure the building stays in good shape.

    Rhode Island Avenue is a different story. The renovation recently done at the Soul Food place which appears to be a church now, in no way compares to the quality job done at 18th & Monroe.

    Harry Thomas Jr. spoke correctly when he said that the churches, especially Greater Mounnt Calvary at 4th & RIA, were the only ones willing to invest in RIA for years. It took nearly 10 years just to get the RIA Metro development up and going. The Great Streets Program for RIA has been approved bringing in lots of new housing. RIA is in line for a streetcar line.

    I’d like to see the store front churches gone, too. I’ve occasionally seen potential merchants investigating some of the vacant storefronts on RIA including church buildings depicted in this blog. I’ve talked with them, but nothing materialized. I don’t know if they found better locations or they just couldn’t get the financing. When this happens, I wonder why RIA can’t establish a program for recruiting good businesses to occupy these buildings? As you know some of the buildings cost $1 million or more! Even the Arts related businesses slated for RIA would have troubles affording these leases. So somebody really needs to get serious and bring in new business that will add to the economic revitalization going on at the RIA Metro and the Route 1 corridor. If you have the know-how, your efforts would be appreciated.

    1. this is actually an interesting discussion. i have lived on
      Langdon Park for about 8 years now and have been SO hungry for
      retail other than a liquor store…which i happen to be happy for
      and am a patron of. i’ve looked at a few store fronts for my next
      venture and i would love to do in Woodridge. The hard things is
      knowing what kind of support is up here in terms of disposable
      income. i own a small gourmet and wine shop in capitol hill and
      while i don’t have interest in doing another one of those, i would
      like to bring something to R.I….mostly a really good burger,
      wine, and beer joint that did a mean brunch on the weekends. so far
      it is just too hard to gauge.

      1. You might want to look at the data collected by the Great
        Streets program. They should have some idea of the level of
        disposable income in this area. But you also have to take into
        account the large amount of traffic that is brought in from
        commuters. I think most of the retailers get the bulk of their
        business from them, especially, the 7-Eleven. I know you favor
        liquor establishments, but the large number of liquor stores along
        RIA has to more than satisfy the needs of the residents in Langdon,
        Woodrige, Brookland, Brentwood, Michigan Park, Mount Raininer, etc.
        I think most of us would welcome new establishments to RIA,
        whatever they may sell. We need to fill those vacant buildings.
        Harry Thomas just lives within 3 blocks of RIA. You must live close
        to him. Have you sat down and had a chat with him on these matters?
        I’m sure he would be supportive and encouraging. In particular, I
        like the diversity offered by the shops coming to Rt. 1 in
        Hyattville. Bus Boys & Poets, Elevation Burger, Thai
        Restaurant, Yes Market, etc. will definitely appeal to the more the
        600 new residents being brought in by the new housing being built.
        To date, Walgreen has definitely signed on at the RIA Metro
        development. In addition to RIA Langdon, is the RIA Metro a
        possibility for the disposable income you’re looking for?

      2. My wife and I moved to Woodridge (near SD and RI) about a year ago and would *kill* for a decent burger/beer/brunch spot within walking-ish distance. From talking to our neighbors and other folks in the neighborhood, we’re far from the only ones. That stretch of RI actually has lots of potential, as evidenced by the developments to the west in Bloomingdale and east in Hyattsville/Mount Rainier. And for what it’s worth, MGM Roast Beef (which sounds somewhat similar to what you’re talking) is constantly mobbed with people whenever I go there.

      3. MGM Roast Beef is mobbed because it has a guaranteed stream
        of customers–the Post Office Facility. I’m sure that’s why they
        located there. I’ve heard the food is good, but I don’t eat that
        kind of food. So, I would really like a “diversity” of food joints,
        like those coming to Rt. 1 in April in Hyattsville including
        BB&P, Elevation Burger, Tara Thai, etc. It’s interesting
        going to Georgetown. Many of the buildings are no larger than the
        interior of the spaces along RIA, especially, the main street
        between 18th & 24th Street. Georgetown is full of tourist
        attractions, great niche shopping, and eateries (though high
        priced). I’ve only recently gone back to Georgetown to shop because
        of the new Apple Store in Georgetown. I would love to see an Apple
        Store in this area! So, a prospective retailer doesn’t necessarily
        need to rely on a steady community base for revenue, as long as, he
        knows that he can get a steady customer base from nearby workers,
        tourists, commuters, etc. This is something else you might want to
        put into the equation to gauge your success for your establishment
        in this area.

  6. There’s been a lot of activity at 2600 12th St. NE (at the corner of 12th and Douglas) and I was getting excited that we might be getting a new restaurant or store. I did a little bit of research though, and now I’m a little worried that it may be another storefront church. I saw something on one of the permitting or real property search websites that indicated that it is for a religious organization’s use. Do you have any information about what’s going on there? To clarify, I don’t have a problem with religious organizations but I agree that there is an overabundance of storefront churches in the area and would much rather see some sort of restaurant or retail.

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