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DC Council Approves New Homeless Shelter Plan With Mayor’s Support

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser reversed course on a key piece of legislation Tuesday, throwing support behind a rewrite of her homeless shelter plan, despite her previous expletive outburst against the Council’s actions.

The unanimous D.C. Council vote will set in motion plans to open new homeless shelters in every ward of the District and close D.C. General Hospital, the city’s often criticized and only public shelter, by sometime in 2018. The D.C. Council plan opts to use government land for the new shelter sites, saving the District roughly $165 million over three decades, reports WAMU.

Bowser proposed a similar plan in February, however her proposal involved leasing private land at an enormous cost to taxpayers, sparking fierce community opposition. She gave the Council version her approval Tuesday, despite unleashing on Council Chairman Phil Mendelson in May for rewriting her proposal and jeopardizing the 2018 deadline. (RELATED: DC Mayor Throws F-Bomb At Council Chair Over Homeless Shelter Derailment)

“You’re a fucking liar!” Bowser shouted at Mendelson down a hallway after an initial vote in May, according to WAMU. “You know it can’t close in 2018!”

The plan proposes five shelters on public sites, and gives the mayor power to buy the remaining two sites, possibly through eminent domain. Commercial properties chosen by the mayor in Wards 3, 5 and 6 were all moved to government sites after strong push-back from residents. (RELATED: DC Residents Loudly Contest Mayor Bowser Homeless Shelter Plan)

Mendelson largely gutted Bowser’s agenda, estimated at $900 million over 30 years, by using public land. The Council rejected language in the mayor’s plan which ceded city control of shelter properties to developers through lucrative leases, many of which benefited Bowser’s campaign donors. The mayor gave the Council plan her full support Tuesday, although Bowser noted it will likely push the timeline back for closing D.C. General, reports NBC4.

“Today marks a milestone in our shared commitment to provide homeless families clean, safe, and dignified housing – and a fair shot at a pathway to the middle class,” Bowser said in a statement. “With the debate now behind us, I look forward to working with neighbors across the District to build replacement facilities that we can all be proud of, and that reflect the best of who we are as a society.”

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