Advocates Urge National Park Service and D.C. Officials to Halt Encampment Evictions

Five homelessness encampments in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C., are scheduled to be forcibly removed by the National Park Service and the administration of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser between May 15 and 20 in a move that will be counterproductive to efforts to end homelessness. The action will displace approximately 70 people, many of whom were already forcibly removed in February 2023 from D.C.’s McPherson Square by the National Park Service at the direction of the local D.C. government. Furthermore, a new non-congregate shelter is slated to open in August just blocks from the encampments. Advocates are calling on the Bowser administration and the National Parks Service to halt the evictions and shift their focus to connecting encampment residents with essential resources.

The National Park Service originally scheduled a small encampment closure months ago before recently expanding the scope of the evictions. As part of the expansion, the local D.C. government decided to close additional encampment sites on the same timeline. Forcibly removing people experiencing homelessness violates best practices and proven solutions to ending homelessness and only makes it more difficult for individuals to be connected to homes and services.

D.C. has made progress recently towards ending chronic homelessness by funding vouchers and offering shelter options, such as The Aston, a non-congregate shelter slated to open near the location where the encampments are scheduled to be removed. The Aston was originally scheduled to open last fall, but the opening has now been delayed until August 2024. Forcing encampment residents to leave when they have nowhere else to go and when there is a non-congregate shelter opening soon nearby is particularly cruel and ineffective.

The Way Home Campaign, a coalition of thousands of people committed to ending chronic homelessness in D.C., is calling on the National Park Service and the Bowser administration to stop the evictions and instead devote resources to more productive measures, such as implementing an existing plan to end homelessness and connect encampment residents to already funded housing options. In a letter to the Bowser administration and National Parks Service, the Way Home Campaign and supporting organizations, including NLIHC, called for the following actions:

  • Avoiding encampment evictions, closures, and the establishment of “no tent zones,” except in the rarest of circumstances when health and safety concerns must be addressed.
  • Whenever possible, addressing health and safety concerns without evicting people in the encampment, displacing residents, and/or establishing no tent zones.
  • Stopping all encampment evictions until The Aston opens and every encampment resident is provided with a solution that meets their needs.
  • Addressing barriers to D.C.’s larger shelter system (such as curfews, limits on possessions, and strict program rules) and expanding non-congregate shelter capacity.
  • Shifting the focus from closing encampments to swiftly connecting residents with housing vouchers, and funding programs and services that end homelessness, such as permanent supportive housing, street outreach, and others.

During the encampment evictions, the Way Home Campaign, NLIHC, and many local and national partners will stand next to our unhoused neighbors to speak out against the forced removals and call for real and humane solutions. Local or national organizations can join The Way Home Campaign’s sign-on letter here, contact officials here, or email Nadia Malik at Miriam’s Kitchen for more information at: [email protected].