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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

ANC elects representatives to oversee The Aston’s conversion into homeless shelter

Max Porter | Staff Photographer
2A03 Commissioner Trupti Patel, ANC Chair Jim Malec and Peter Sacco, the executive director of ANCs 2A, 2B and 2E convened in person for the meeting.

Members of a local governing body elected two West End residents to the Community Advisory Team that will work with D.C. officials to convert a former University residence hall into a homeless shelter at a special meeting Monday.

The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission elected Courtney Cooperman, a housing advocacy adviser for the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and Chris Labas, the property manager of the condominium West End Place, to represent community members on the Community Advisory Team established in June. The team will work with officials from the D.C. Departments of General and Human Services to implement and evaluate their $27.5 million plan to convert The Aston, a former University residence hall, into a shelter for unhoused mixed-gendered families and medically vulnerable people.

Commissioners selected Cooperman and Labas out of a dozen candidates using a ranked choice voting system. ANC 2A Chair Jim Malec said the vote may mark the first time in history that a D.C. government body used a ranked choice method.

“We should all be pretty proud of this,” Malec said.

Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto and the ANC requested the team’s formation to oversee The Aston’s conversion, which will present feedback from shelter residents during the first two years of operation, coordinate opportunities for public feedback on the shelter and develop “good neighbor agreements.”

Malec and a representative from Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration will co-chair the team, which will include three other ANC representatives, three representatives from a “civic or neighborhood association,” three representatives of Pinto and Ward 2, two “homeless services stakeholders” and a DGS and DHS representative. Malec, 2A06 Commissioner Joel Causey — who represents the district where the shelter is located — as well as two community members, Cooperman and Labas, will represent ANC2A on the team.

Pinto hasn’t yet announced her representatives, per the ANC’s September meeting. It is also unclear if the civic association or homeless service stakeholder representatives have been selected yet.

An election to appoint the ANC’s two community member representatives to the team failed in July after infighting among commissioners and prospective candidates about voting procedure and community representation caused commissioners to adjourn the meeting.

During Monday’s meeting, commissioners elected Cooperman to the Community Advisory Team in the first round of ranked choice voting and elected Labas in the second round. 2A01 Commissioner Yannik Omictin, 2A03 Commissioner Trupti Patel and 2A07 Commissioner Dasia Bandy ranked Cooperman first for the position, with Causey, 2A04 Commissioner Ed Comer and 2A08 Commissioner Jordan Nassar ranking Labas first. Malec ranked Maria Velleca first, a faculty member at Georgetown University, and ranked Cooperman higher than Labas, granting her the victory before Labas.

Cooperman said she is honored for the opportunity to represent the community in her new role. She said she has the necessary experience to contribute to the team and feels deeply rooted in Foggy Bottom and West End.

“Our neighborhood can do its fair share to bring us all closer to our shared goal of ending homelessness in D.C.,” Cooperman said.

Cooperman said she will organize events for community members and Aston residents to meet and seek out the perspectives of those living in The Aston in her role because they have the “greatest insights” about the facility’s functioning. She said the Community Advisory Team can set an example of the success of “bridge housing,” even in wealthy neighborhoods like Foggy Bottom and West End.

“I’m just really excited to show that we can do this, that this can be a win-win for everyone,” Cooperman said.

Labas said he has played a role in enhancing the Foggy Bottom and West End neighborhoods, including as a member of the Foggy Bottom Association Board of Directors for nearly a decade where he served on the association’s homelessness task force, which works with D.C. officials to find affordable housing for unhoused community members. He said he held weekly seminars and speaker events for residents to express their concerns to the D.C. government.

“We addressed the community’s concerns and issues related to the significant number of unhoused folks in our section of Ward 2,” Labas said.

Labas said The Aston’s transition to becoming a shelter for unhoused people is “inevitable.” He said the Community Advisory Team serves to guarantee and preserve quality of life and safety in Foggy Bottom, West End and The Aston and unite those who do and don’t support the building’s conversion to a homeless shelter.

“The formation of the Community Advisory Team seems the best compromise and I’d like to be a part of that bridge that connects the opposite banks of this issue,” Labas said.

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