Friday, August 05, 2011

Social Service Programs Ruin Neighborhood?

That is what the future neighbors of this homeless program’s planned move to their neighborhood are saying in Washington, and it is a question being asked in our city also.

The dividing line seems to be, that if a program is vigorously helping people get out of homelessness, then it is probably more welcome than one that is merely providing domestic services to the homeless making it easier to be homeless.

Also the latter can be seen as potentially attracting more homeless, than the former which is encouraging the development of personal responsibility towards change.

Making it easy to be homeless rather than demanding the homeless make the hard choices necessary to create positive change, will, unfortunately, generally be more popular with the homeless; as will the parallel concerning, maintaining the status quo or moving towards change, with any personal or social problem.

The country-wide discussion goes on, as reported in this story from the Washington City Paper.An excerpt.

“It's as predictable as the sunrise, from Petworth to Congress Heights to Truxton Circle to Hill East: A social services organization tries to locate a facility in a neighborhood, the neighbors feel blindsided, and the battle is joined. This time, the drama is about to play out again in the heart of Anacostia's business district, where Calvary Women's Services is redeveloping a 14,000-square-foot building as a women's shelter.

“The 28-year-old organization bought the property, in a former Elks Lodge right across from the Department of Housing and Community Development on Good Hope Road SE, for $950,000 in December. It's a $3 million project, and after landing a $175,000 gift from the Cafritz Foundation, organizers are hoping to raise another $750,000 by the end of the year to make the numbers work. When it's operational, the facility will house 50 women at night and serve meals to 100 per day, along with providing other supportive services.

“Despite the fact that it's been in the works for seven months now, lots of people in the area found out about it just last week, in an email blast from Council Chairman Kwame Brown. Today, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Greta Fuller fired off a letter to the relevant agency directors complaining that the area was already overburdened with homeless services and drug treatment programs; there are four others within a few blocks of Calvary's site.

"It's a very frustrating process, because the community wants so desperately to move forward, and when services like this are on every block in our neighborhood, it makes it difficult to promote the neighborhood," says Charles Wilson, president of the Historic Anacostia Block Association. "You can tell that some people have been maneuvering behind the scenes to move this process just get a sense that politicians have made it possible for them to make the transition to Good Hope Road."