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Officials to clear seven Foggy Bottom homeless encampment sites

Tents+sit+in+the+E+Street+Triangle+Park+encampment.
Daniel Heuer | Assistant Photo Editor
Tents sit in the E Street Triangle Park encampment.

Updated: May 15, 2024, at 1:53 p.m. 

National Park Service and District officials will sweep seven homeless encampments in Foggy Bottom next week, slating evictions for about 70 residents. 

D.C.’s encampment response team will clear residents and their belongings from Foggy Bottom locations between May 16 and May 20 to “protect residents” on District property from “dangerous circumstances” like fires, assaults, rodents and risk of traffic collisions, according to an Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services spokesperson. The notice of impending clearings prompted homeless nonprofit organizations and shelters to organize a “week of action” last week, urging D.C. officials to stop encampment evictions and invest in solutions to end homelessness in the District like housing vouchers and emergency rental assistance

The spokesperson said officials will clear four encampments on NPS land. Officials plan to evict residents at Triangle Park and Rawlings-Wittman Park on May 16 and a park near Godey Lime Kiln, as well as 26th and L streets on May 20.

Officials will evict residents from three District sites. On May 16, officials will clear 20th-21st streets and E Street-Virginia Avenue, as well as 25th Street and Virginia Avenue. Officials will sweep 27th and K streets on May 20, the spokesperson said. 

DMHHS’ encampments website states that officials provide resources to shelter, pathways to housing and access to behavioral health services to individuals at encampments in the District. The DMHHS spokesperson said NPS officials make decisions to clear encampments on federal land, but D.C. officials work to provide shelter resources and other social services to residents in encampments that are evicted from these locations. 

NPS did not return a request for comment on why they decided to clear the encampments. A DMHHS spokesperson said officials post notices of encampment cleanups at least a month in advance. 

“The District will continue our work to connect all unhoused residents in the city with human support services, including housing,” the spokesperson said in an email. 

The Way Home Campaign — a coalition of nonprofits that housing rehabilitation organization Miriam’s Kitchen created to end chronic homelessness in the District — coordinated the week of action, which included protests and email campaigns arguing that encampment evictions will put the unhoused residents’ safety at risk and lessen their access to outreach services.  

The group created an email script last week that community members can send to local and federal officials, calling on the D.C. government and NPS to halt the evictions. The list of email recipients includes Mayor Muriel Bowser, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Wayne Turnage, Chair of the D.C. Committee on Health Christina Henderson, Chair of Judiciary and Public Safety Brooke Pinto and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.

The Way Home Campaign leaders also organized a rally Thursday morning at the John A. Wilson Building, which houses D.C. Council hearings and offices, with more than 40 demonstrators who protested the cleanups and demanded the council fund solutions to homelessness like housing vouchers and emergency rental assistance.

Miriam’s Kitchen Advocacy Director Dana White, who attended the rally, said clearing encampments “further traumatizes” unhoused individuals by forcing them to find a new place to live and instigates negative interactions between unhoused people and law enforcement. After clearings, outreach workers can’t easily locate unhoused people in need of support, disconnecting them from their belongings and services like case management, hygiene products and food, White said.

“Evicting encampments doesn’t actually work,” White said. “It doesn’t actually house anyone.”

White said the groups are advocating to allow unhoused people to stay in encampments where they feel “safe and secure” while nonprofits like Miriam’s Kitchen work to find resources to house them. White said some people in the Foggy Bottom encampments set for clearings would be eligible to live in The Aston, a homeless shelter set to open in a former GW residence hall in August but that delays in the shelter’s opening due to construction have prevented encampment residents from moving in before the encampment evictions. 

“There is the option to allow those folks to remain where they are in place until that shelter opens while providing them with the necessary services and resources to get them on track to housing,” White said.

Jesse Rabinowitz, the campaign and communications director at the National Homelessness Law Center and a former Miriam’s Kitchen staffer, said at the rally that encampments in Foggy Bottom are residents’ “last resort,” meaning clearings will force residents to reside in storefronts and drug-free zones. MPD officers often disperse groups of people congregating in the zones to prevent illegal drug activity as outlined in the Secure DC Omnibus Emergency Amendment Act of 2024.

“This will only harm our neighbors experiencing homelessness and make it harder for us to collectively solve homelessness,” Rabinowitz said.

He said officials expect the Triangle Park clearing to take three days because about 40 residents live in the encampment. 

The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission unanimously passed a resolution at their April meeting that denounced the Triangle Park encampment clearing because the sweep would displace dozens of residents. Commissioners also noted that officials have previously housed all of the encampment’s residents, referencing the Coordinated Assistance and Resources for Encampments Pilot Program, in which District officials moved individuals living in Triangle Park to permanent housing in 2021.

Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau said at the rally that D.C. officials raised taxes in 2022 to fund housing vouchers, but vouchers ran out in June 2023 and the District didn’t have a plan to fund more. She said she is working to determine how to amend D.C.’s fiscal year 2025 budget proposal — which does not currently allocate any funding for housing vouchers and cut emergency rental assistance funding in half — to fund more housing vouchers and emergency rental assistance.

“What are we saying to the people who are still living on the street about how we’re going to help them?” Nadeau said. “Because the answer can’t only be ‘Come into shelter’ and the answer definitely can’t be ‘You can’t sleep here, even though we don’t have anything to offer.’” 

Terrance — who did not provide his last name and said he “sometimes” lives in the park by Godey Lime Kilns that NPS will clear May 20 — said he believes NPS officials clear encampments because they don’t want people to establish permanent residencies in the parks. 

He said officials have previously evicted him from other parks in Foggy Bottom and that after evictions, he finds another area to settle in. He said in his experience, officials are more likely to clear encampments than evict an individual living alone at a park.

Terrance said he was frustrated that “everything” needs government permission, citing how NPS officials will prohibit him from living in the park. He said the U.S. government “stole” the land from Native Americans, but officials claim it as their own and tell others to move off of it. 

“What gives them a right to move someone off a property?” Terrance said.

This post has been updated to reflect the following: 

This post has been updated to reflect that officials moved the four encampment clearings scheduled for May 15 to May 16 due to forecasted rain and “corresponding encampment protocol,” according to the DMHHS spokesperson. The spokesperson said officials will clear the encampments on 20th-21st streets and E Street-Virginia Avenue, 25th Street and Virginia Avenue, Triangle Park, and Rawlings-Wittman Park on May 16.

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About the Contributor
Rory Quealy, News Editor
Rory Quealy is a sophomore majoring in journalism and mass communications from La Grange, Illinois. She leads the Metro beat as one of The Hatchet's 2024-2025 news editors. She was previously the assistant news editor for the Health and Research beat and a research assistant.
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