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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Opening of Aston unhoused shelter unofficially delayed to October

File Photo by Katelyn Power | Staff Photographer
The Aston’s entrance on 14th Street.

D.C. Department of Human Services officials may again push back the opening of a homeless shelter near campus from August to October, the president of the shelter’s provider said at a Community Advisory Team meeting Monday.

Jean-Michel Giraud — the president and chief executive officer of Friendship Place, the District-based housing provider for people experiencing homelessness that will supervise The Aston — said the estimated completion date has been pushed by two months, but the exact date is not yet “operationalized.” Meeting participants, including CAT co-chair Jim Malec and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission members Trupti Patel and Ed Comer said they had not been informed before Monday’s meeting that officials expected another delay to The Aston’s opening.

The District initially planned to renovate and open The Aston — a former GW residence hall on New Hampshire Avenue — in November 2023, but difficulties finding a provider and ongoing construction delayed the shelter’s opening. At the last CAT meeting in May, officials projected an August opening and updates at the beginning of Monday’s meeting indicated the deadline remained the same.

“Why were we not informed offline or during an earlier update?” Malec said. “I mean, that’s a substantive change to the schedule. And I don’t feel like I should be hearing about that as a comment at the end of the meeting.”

Comer said the pushed timeline, regardless of whether it is official or not, should have been communicated with CAT members and presented at the community updates at the beginning of the meeting.

“It’s important that the members of the Community Advisory Team and the public in general, to build trust, have a sense that if things are going go a little slower that they’re told about that,” Comer said.

At the beginning of the meeting, officials from the D.C. Department of Human Services and the Department of General Services provided community updates on tenant selection and building repairs. CAT officials also led a community discussion about a good neighbor agreement, a document that outlines the shared responsibilities of tenants and neighbors.

Anthony Newman, DHS deputy administrator, said DHS is working on the coordinated entry program, which he said officials will have more information to share publicly in July. Newman said since The Aston is a high-barrier shelter, the mechanisms to facilitate the entry process requires detailed planning.

“If you can imagine all the nuances that might go into developing that kind of process, because you’d have to think of all the things that can go right and wrong, and explain it to an entire sort of ecosystem within the homeless services community,” Newman said.

The coordinated entry program for The Aston, as described by DHS officials at the meeting, will determine criteria for resident entry, operationalizing how officials will prioritize different demographics to ensure access to the shelter.

“So we have to sort of go through a criteria and spell out each one of those things so that when we go to the community, they know exactly who they’re submitting, and it makes the process work easier,” Newman said.

Robert Saunders, a building manager with the DGS, said at a previous CAT meeting that DGS selected Capital Construction to complete plumbing work in The Aston. He said Monday that a contractor has been selected and that DGS is waiting on a timeline with the project manager.

Saunders said the contract covers plumbing replacements in The Aston, which is the only work DGS is currently planning.

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