Those of you who live and/or work in Washington, DC and use the metro stations at Union Station or Judiciary Square have probably seen or perhaps interacted with the residents of the CCNV at 425 2nd Street, NW. It’s hard not to notice them outside the building. If you are unaware of this 1350 bed facility for the homeless men and women of Washington, DC, you can learn more about that here. Having lived in DC much of my life I have known about the shelter and remember well the activism of Mitch Snyder in 1984 which forced the Reagan Administration to renovate the building for use as a permanent shelter in 1988. That seemed like an insurmountable task and a crisis of epic proportions at the time.
Today the CCNV faces another crisis that threatens to dismantle the facility entirely. The lease is up on the property in 2016 and the DC City Government may have other plans for the property that do not include the 1350 homeless residents. Rumors abound on the street about what will happen. A task force has been formed to study the options, suspiciously one of the task force members, Douglas Jemal is also the CEO of Douglas Development one of the largest real estate developers in DC. To say that the CCNV sits on prime commercial property is an understatement. While it’s still early in the process the deck may already be stacked against the homeless residents who have little or no voice in the proceedings and will have their ingrained, institutional passivity used against them. They need another Mitch Snyder!
When I started the “Invisible Ones Project” I was inspired by the plaque that you see in the image. It is on the outside wall of the CCNV building. This sentiment, so eloquent in it’s simple humanity remains an inspiration for me. One can only hope that the City Government feels the same way.