Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser lashed out at critics attacking her plan to build new, expensive homeless shelters in neighborhoods across the city during her State of the District address Tuesday.
Bowser said opponents of her proposal are simply fearful of placing shelters in their own neighborhoods and that fear is standing in the way of a good and necessary policy.
The mayor outlined a plan in February to close D.C. General Hospital, the city’s current homeless shelter, replacing it with new sites in seven of the city’s eight wards, which has faced widespread criticism from community members, reports The Washington Times.
“People have said vicious things,” Bowser said during her Tuesday night address. “They clouded the mission, and they have threatened those trying to carry it out, because, sadly, sometimes people fight from a place of fear. And, sadly, sometimes leaders retreat to that place too.”
Bowser estimates her plan to cost between $266 and $300 million over the next three decades, but other projections peg the figure much higher, according to The Washington Post. The mayor’s price figure does not take into account additional costs for various services the homeless shelters will provide. Breakdowns in the cost show, on average, the city will be spending $4,500 per month for each dormitory style room housing the city’s homeless. (RELATED: DC Residents In Revolt Over Mayor’s Plan To Put Homeless In $100,000 Units Next Door)
“I urge us not to be distracted by arguments based on fear or convenience or apples-and-oranges comparisons that falsely represent the cost of lifting families out of homelessness,” Bowser said Tuesday. “If we fail to act — or if we do not move forward with one of the sites — we will not be able to close D.C. General. Not now, not any time soon, and maybe never.”
The shelter proposal faced a fresh wave of criticism last week after information came out showing three major donors to Bowser’s mayoral campaign would financially benefit from the leases given to shelter sites. The properties are currently valued at $14.5 million, however, city leases to convert the sites into shelters could raise their value by as much as ten times, lifting total property value to a potential $147 million. (RELATED: DC Mayor’s Donors Stand To Profit From Hotly Contested Shelter Plan)
Bowser also surprised many during her State of the District address by throwing her support behind a $15 minimum wage in the capital by 2020 — she previously showed little support for the initiative. Bowser’s promotion of the policy may be a plan to leverage necessary votes for her controversial homeless shelter plan from the liberal D.C. Council, reports The Washington Post.
Skepticism abounded among Council members at a hearing late last week over the plan, grilling supporters of the shelter proposal over estimated costs. Council President Phil Mendelson is expected to bring the proposal up for a vote in mid-April.
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